As with people, dogs often get cancer, especially as they get older. Fifty percent of dogs over the age of 10 develop cancer at some point. Mostly, cancer affects the dogs’ skin, digestive system or the breast. However, in 50 percent of the cases, dogs are able to be cured if the cancer is caught at its earliest stages. Coping with dog cancer is definitely not easy! In this article we want to provide you with some tips on the matter: what to be aware of and how to cope with it.

What are the symptoms?

Dog cancer can be hard to detect but if you pay attention, you can find a lot of the warning signs and symptoms yourself. The warning signs of cancer in dogs are very similar to those in people. A lump or a bump, a wound that doesn’t heal, abnormal bleeding, weight loss or any kind of swelling can be signs of cancer. But it’s important to note  that many of the symptoms are common to a large range of other diseases – so a diagnosis of cancer cannot be made on symptoms alone. If the cancer is at an early stage there are sometimes little or no signs. Always trust your instincts and see a veterinarian if you sense that  your dog isn’t feeling well, or there’s something abnormal.

Then what happens?

Normally it is not possible for the vet to tell whether an animal has cancer just by looking. Further tests, such as blood samples and x-rays, are often needed to test for cancer or other diseases. X-ray and ultrasound allow vets to study the internal organs without any kind operation. When cancer is found, an ultrasound may also help to discover whether the cancer has spread to other areas of the dog’s body. For ultrasound examinations, the dog will need to have its fur shaved in order to place the ultrasound machine in close contact to the skin. But no worries, it’s not possible for your dear pup to feel x-rays or ultrasound. In some cases a biopsy (taking a small sample for examination under a microscope) may be needed in order to identify the tumour and see if it is cancerous.

Warning signals

  • Changes in behaviour
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reluctance to move around and go for walks
  • Weight loss
  • Restlessness, difficulty in getting comfortable
  • Withdrawn or tense

How is cancer treated?

In general, there are three basic types of cancer treatment:  surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, the cancer treatment vary and depends on the type and stage of cancer. Surgery is often chosen for tumours of the skin. Chemotherapy, on the other hand, is appropriate for several types of cancer. Veterinary chemotherapy usually has few side effects, or none at all, because the doses used are smaller than those used in humans. Unfortunately, it does not usually cure the cancer. The aim is to slow the cancer down and reduce the symptoms. A mixture of therapies can also be a possibility. Some dog owners don’t like the above mentioned treatments, in which case palliative care, including pain relief, is offered. As for humans, 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 along with lots of love and care can definitely enhance your dog’s quality of life.

How to prevent dog cancer?

Overall, prevention is difficult because we don’t know the causes of most cancers. There are some things that appear to make cancer more likely, and statistically, some breeds appear to be more at risk. Boxers, Scottish Terriers, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds are among the risk-breeds. Spaying your dog may prevent it from getting cancer. It is known that spaying a dog before the first heat reduces the chance of cancer. 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. So far, the link between a dog’s diet and lifestyle and the incidence of cancer has not yet been proved. Rather than trying to prevent cancer, identifying it early and treating it quickly is the best strategy. And seek professional help when needed!