Dog Cancer / Tumors
With veterinary advances, dogs can live longer. However, with longer life expectancy comes health problems associated with old age such as cancer and tumors. Cancer in dogs is quite malignant, whereas tumors may often be benign. Early detection is always helpful for treatment.
Though many cancers are hereditary, some cancers are acquired through a virus, toxin accumulation or irradiation. Ensure that your dog does not come into contact with toxic chemicals. If your dog has a pale skin or short coat, avoid excessive exposure to sunlight.
Tumors can be detected during your daily grooming regime, if you notice any abnormal lumps or bumps, take your dog to the veterinarian. A wart, cyst or an abscess or any type of growth may be a non-cancerous tumor, but often cause great discomfort in your dog. Mast cell tumors are the most prevalent tumors found in old dogs. They occur in the foreskin of the penis, hind legs and lower abdomen. Two thirds of mast cell tumors are benign.
Certain breeds of dogs are susceptible to certain cancers. Ask your veterinarian what your dog may be susceptible to and find out his family history too as most cancers are inherited. Testicular cancer occurs in mostly unneutered dogs. Peri-anal gland tumors often occur in male dogs. These are usually benign but are painful and are prone to infection. Female dogs are at risk of mammary gland cancers if they are unspayed or were spayed late. Breast tumors are often malignant. Mixed breed dogs are susceptible to malignant skin tumors. Take note of your dog’s body type. Dark skinned dogs are often found to have melanomas. Big male dogs are susceptible to bone cancer.
A quarter of all dogs will develop a tumor and this is quite a common cause of death. Most dogs over the age of ten die a cancer related death. As your dog gets older, be wary. Cancer has no obvious symptoms, so be cognizant of your dog’s age and history of possibly inherited cancers. Watch out for flu related symptoms, loss of appetite, tiring, bleeding, difficulty breathing, odor and weight loss. Thorough annual medical examinations are very helpful. The medical check up should include abdominal palpitation, oral exam and all over body feel.
When a lump is detected, your veterinarian uses a syringe needle to remove some cells from the lump. These cells are examined microscopically. If they are found to be abnormal, a biopsy is done, where more cells are surgically cut from the lump. These cells are also examined to determine the level of the tumor’s growth and malignancy.
Most cancer treatments include surgical removal, radiation and medication to stop the tumor from coming back. The decisions on treatment rest with you, the dog owner. As with human cancers, expect high costs, stress, deterioration in health (both you and your dog), long and continuous treatment, and constant care and attention for your dog. If your dog is aging, consider his future quality of life. If using chemotherapy, human drugs are used; but the aim is to merely prolong your dog’s life and not to cure him.