Did you know that skin cancers are the most common tumor in dogs – accounting for approximately one third of all tumors? You might not think much about it because your dear friend is covered with hair and protected from the sun. Luckily, when caught early, many cases of dog skin cancer can be treated successfully.
Cancer warning signs
Cancer can be hard to detect in dogs but if you pay attention, you can find a lot of the warning signs and symptoms yourself. Dogs with skin cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs:
- Abnormal swelling that persists or continues to grow
- Sores that do not heal
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
- Sores that do not heal for several months (especially in areas where the hair is white or light colored)
- Difficulty eating or swallowing
- Hesitation to exercise
- Persistent lameness or stiffness
- Difficulty in breathing and urinating
If your pet has any of these cancer symptoms, be sure to consult with your veterinarian right away.
How to prevent your dog from getting cancer
Overall, prevention is difficult because we don’t know the causes of most cancers. Cancer is a “multifactorial” disease, which means it has no known single cause. Rather than trying to prevent cancer, identifying it early and treating it quickly is the best strategy. Bringing your dog to the vet, to get professional guiding, is always a good idea. The vet will know exactly what works on different breeds and different types of cancer. However, keep in mind that different vets might have different views on the best way to treat the disease. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to seek out a second opinion.
Spaying your dog may prevent your dog from getting cancer. If you spay a dog before the first heat you’ll reduce the chance of cancer, just because of the hormonal influence. Exposure to the sun has also been shown to cause a higher incidence of skin cancer. Therefore, be aware of the sun and keep your pet sun-safe during the summer.
Which breeds are most likely to develop cancer?
There may be a genetic basis for the development of certain cancers and even though cancer can strike any breed of dog at any age, there are certain breeds that have higher instances of the disease.
- Scottish Terriers
- Golden Retrievers
- Norwegian Elkhounds
- German Shepherds
- Bull Mastiffs
- Basset Hounds
are among the breeds that most commonly develop cancer. Large and giant breeds, like Great Danes and Saint Bernards, are much more likely to suffer from bone cancer. Older dogs are also much more in the “risk zone” than younger ones. It is important to be familiar with the diseases to which your dog might have a breed predisposition. When in doubt, you can always contact a vet.
How is cancer treated?
The cancer treatment vary and depends on the type and stage of cancer. The most common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy. A mixture of therapies is also a possibility. Some dog owners might not like the above mentioned treatments, in which case palliative care, including pain relief, is offered. Some cancers can be cured, and some not. If your dog’s cancer is not curable, there are still many things you can do to improve the life of your dear friend. Good nutrition and lots of love and care can definitely enhance your dog’s quality of life.
Do you have any experience with skin cancer in dogs? We would be happy if you would share your story.