4 September 2023
Let’s talk about a word that sends shivers down anyone’s spine: cancer. The bitter truth is that cancer has touched many lives, taking away friends and loved ones, both human and furry. However, cancer isn’t always synonymous with a grim fate in dogs. Veterinarians emphasize that recognizing early signs can turn the tide, potentially saving your furry companion’s life.
Much like in humans, early detection is a game-changer in canine cancer. Cancer has a better chance of surrendering to treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy when detected in its infancy. The crucial element is awareness, and vets are eager to shed light on the often-missed early signs of cancer in dogs. As a devoted pet parent, here’s what you need to know.
Unsurprisingly, senior dogs face a higher risk of developing cancer. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) indicates that roughly half of dogs over ten may encounter cancer. As cells age, their propensity to grow uncontrollably or evade natural death increases, paving the way for cancer to emerge.
But don’t be misled; cancer isn’t age-discriminatory. It can strike dogs of all ages. While certain cancers like mast cell tumors and lymphoma are universal, benign tumors like histiocytomas are prevalent in young dogs.
Sometimes, cancer can be sneaky. During its initial stages, the signs might be subtle or altogether absent. A poignant example is splenic hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the spleen. This ticking time bomb can rupture suddenly, causing internal bleeding. Before this catastrophic event, pet owners may observe no overt abnormalities. Occasionally, abdominal swelling, lethargy, or pale gums might be telltale signs.
Similarly, small malignant anal gland tumors are adept at eluding notice. Nearly half of these sinister growths are discovered serendipitously during routine wellness visits in symptom-free pups. This underscores the significance of regular check-ups for dogs.
New Lumps or Lesions: New lumps or bumps, especially those growing rapidly or resisting healing, might signal early-stage cancer. Keep an eye out for changes in size, returning lumps, or those that sometimes bleed. Consult a vet if you encounter any of these.
Unusual Odors: While some odor after play is normal, strange and foul smells emanating from your dog’s mouth, ears, or body warrant attention. These could be markers of an underlying cancer.
Unexplained Weight Loss: Weight loss is often chalked up to old age, but it shouldn’t be the default explanation. Unexplained weight loss without changes in appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea can hint at cancer. Cancer cells require energy for growth, subtly altering your dog’s physique.
Bathroom Habits: Trouble using the bathroom might point to tumors in the urinary or gastrointestinal systems. While not exclusive to cancer, this warrants a vet’s consultation.
Bleeding: Ongoing bleeding or discharge could be cancer-driven. For instance, vaginal bleeding might indicate a uterine infection, while nasal bleeding could signify a nasal tumor.
Lethargy or Loss of Energy: Sudden energy level changes could signify deeper troubles. Uncharacteristic tiredness might be an early sign of an underlying health issue, including cancer.
Persistent Coughing or Breathing Issues: These symptoms could indicate lung cancer or other respiratory problems, urging you to seek veterinary advice.
Pain: A sudden onset of pain or limping might point to bone cancer. Swelling and tenderness in the affected area could be early signs of sickness.
In the journey of pet parenthood, your dog’s vet is your ally. If your furry companion seems out of sorts, contact your veterinarian. Serial photos of unusual lumps or skin changes can be invaluable, showcasing the area’s evolution. Videos capturing intermittent limps or coughs at home can provide crucial insights for your vet.
Remember, your dog communicates in their unique way. Non-specific early signs might overlap with other conditions, but they’re also your dog’s way of saying something isn’t right. Listening to your dog can be the key to timely intervention and successful treatment. So, please consult your vet; your dog’s well-being depends on it.