Never Ignore These Early Signs of Dog Cancer

early warning signs
Never Ignore These Early Signs of Dog Cancer

Dogs are cherished family members and it's only natural for us to worry about their well-being. Among dog owners' worst medical anxieties is the feared cancer diagnosis, which, unfortunately, statistics confirm.

Each year, roughly 6 million dogs are diagnosed with cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Given that not all dogs receive a clear cancer diagnosis, the Veterinary Cancer Society predicts that one in every four dogs will develop cancer at some stage and nearly half of dogs over the age of ten will develop some type of cancer.

As professionals who have lost their dogs to cancer, we realize how heartbreaking a cancer diagnosis may be – but we also know that almost half of all canine tumors are treatable if detected early enough, and treatment options are continually evolving with new research being released. Knowledge is powerful, particularly when it comes to understanding the symptoms of the most common canine malignancies.

You Know Your Dog Best

Dog owners are familiar with their dog's daily activities, personality, physical attributes, and actions. They are aware of their eating habits, the number of visits outside they requires throughout the day, the times they prefer to play, and the number of naps they will take each day. Dog owners must be always watchful for changes in their dog's daily activities and physical appearance that may suggest early cancer warning signs.

Early Signs of Lymphoma 

Lymphoma accounts for 20% of all canine cancers, with dogs of any breed being two to five times more likely than people to get lymphoma. Swollen lymph nodes beneath the jaw, in front of the shoulders, or below the knees are frequently seen. 

Swollen lymph nodes have the appearance of hard lumps or masses beneath the skin but are usually not painful when touched. Additionally, these lymph nodes may feel warm to the touch. When lymphoma invades lymph nodes in the chest or belly, symptoms such as difficulty breathing, vomiting, and/or diarrhea are frequently present.

Early Signs of Mast Cell Tumors

These tumors often develop on or beneath the skin and are dubbed "the great imposter" among canine tumors due to their ability to pass for benign fatty lipomas. Mast cell tumors are invariably malignant, however, their severity and grade vary considerably. 

They expand rapidly into the surrounding skin but usually do not cause pain until later stages. Multiple masses can form on a dog's body at the same time, thus all masses should be investigated. Mast cell cancers can also invade internal organs, including the spleen and liver. They commonly present as a tiny, elevated, hairless pink lump or a soft, squishy subcutaneous (below the skin) mass.

Early Warning Signs of Melanoma

Melanoma is the most prevalent type of oral cancer in dogs, occurring most frequently in breeds with dark tongues and gums. When a malignant melanoma is discovered in the oral cavity, it typically manifests as a brown, black, or occasionally pink mass that has spread throughout the body. Melanoma can also develop on dogs' toes, manifesting as a swelling or bleeding lump around the nailbed.

Early Warning Signs of Osteosarcoma (Bone Cancer)

Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer in dogs. It mainly affects large dog breeds and attacks long bones in the limbs, although it can also affect the skull. It spreads fast to the lungs, lymph nodes, and other bones, with owners initially reporting swelling, lameness, and limb pain.

Early Warning Signs of Hemangiosarcoma

Hemangiosarcoma is a type of canine cancer that arises from cells that coat blood vessels. It can affect the spleen, liver, heart, and skin. Early signs and symptoms may include a soft or firm swelling beneath the skin, weight loss, a protruding abdomen, fatigue, and decreased appetite. Symptoms may not manifest until the tumor ruptures, at which point blood loss, abrupt weakness, pale gums, and difficulty breathing become apparent in the dog.

Don’t Wait- Early Detection is Critical

With everyday activities and hectic schedules absorbing the majority of our time, we understand that dog difficulties can feel inconvenient. However, it is critical for the health and lifespan of your dog that symptoms be not ignored – or worse, misread by you or a quick Google search. 

It is critical to act quickly in the case of canine cancer, and any veterinarian would prefer that you bring them in for an examination rather than "wait it out" and observe for more signs. Regrettably, waiting for those additional symptoms to manifest means that the cancer will be allowed to develop to more advanced stages.

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