Warning signs of cancer.

The Blue Buffalo Company  established The Blue Buffalo Foundation for Cancer Research in 2003, “as part of our ongoing mission to raise awareness about pet cancer and money to help support various universities and clinics conducting research on the causes of, prevention and treatment of dogs and cats with the disease.” 

Their pet cancer awareness website has a page devoted to pet cancer signs and symptoms that is very valuable in helping pet owners recognize some of the more common warning signs of cancer.

Here is their list:

Swollen Lymph Nodes

These “glands” are located throughout the body but are most easily detected behind the jaw or behind the knee. When these lymph nodes are enlarged they can suggest a common form of cancer called lymphoma. A biopsy or cytology of these enlarged lymph nodes can aid in the diagnosis. 

 

An Enlarging or Changing Lump

Any lump on a pet that is rapidly growing or changing in texture or shape should have a biopsy. Lumps belong in biopsy jars, not on pets. 

 

Abdominal Distension

When the “stomach” or belly becomes rapidly enlarged, this may suggest a mass or tumor in the abdomen or it may indicate some bleeding that is occurring in this area. A radiograph or an ultrasound of the abdomen can be very useful. 

 

Chronic Weight Loss

When a pet is losing weight and you have not put your pet on a diet, you should have your pet checked. This sign is not diagnostic for cancer, but can indicate that something is wrong. Many cancer patients have weight loss. 

 

Chronic Vomiting or Diarrhea

Unexplained vomiting or diarrhea should prompt further investigation. Often tumors of the gastrointestinal tract can cause chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea. Radiographs, ultrasound examinations and endoscopy are useful diagnostic tools when this occurs. 

 

Unexplained Bleeding

Bleeding from the mouth, nose, penis, vagina or gums that is not due to trauma should be examined. Although bleeding disorders do occur in pets, they usually are discovered while pets are young. If unexplained bleeding starts when a pet is old, a thorough search should be undertaken. 

 

Cough

A dry, non-productive cough in an older pet should prompt chest radiographs to be taken. This type of cough is the most common sign of lung cancer. Please remember there are many causes of cough in dogs and cats. 

 

Lameness

Unexplained lameness especially in large or giant breed dogs is a very common sign of bone cancer. Radiographs of the affected area are useful for detecting cancer of the bone. 

 

Straining to Urinate

Straining to urinate and blood in the urine usually indicate a common urinary tract infection; if the straining and bleeding are not rapidly controlled with antibiotics or are recurrent, cancer of the bladder may be the underlying cause. Cystoscopy or other techniques that allow a veterinarian to take a biopsy of the bladder are useful and sometimes necessary to establish a definitive diagnosis in these cases. 

 

Oral Odor

Oral tumors do occur in pets and can cause a pet to change its food preference (i.e. from hard to soft foods) or cause a pet to change the manner in which it chews its food. Many times a foul odor can be detected in pets with oral tumors. A thorough oral examination with radiographs or CT scan, necessitating sedation, is often necessary to determine the cause of the problem.

Cancer is a frightening and, too often, devastating diagnosis for pet owners. Being aware of the warning signs will give you a better chance of giving your dog the long and happy life he deserves. 

 

Bingley, Buckley, and Tex all crossed the Rainbow bridge in 2016. Bing and Buck both died of cancer.

Bingley, Buckley, and Tex all crossed the Rainbow bridge in 2016. Bing and Buck both died of cancer.

 

*While these may be some of the more common signs of cancer in dogs and cats, there are cancers that do not have early warning signs. This is why it is important to have your dog regularly examined by your vet, especially as he ages, so that changes in your dog’s health can be noticed sooner rather than later. Our vet’s technician was the first to notice Buckley’s pale gums and alert us to his anemia, which was the telltale sign of his cancer (see: The Big “C“). For more information on caring for your elderly dog, check out our podcast: Giving Older Dogs the Good Life. 

Decisions, decisions, decisions! General Toy Box or stuff that doesn't fit neatly elsewhere0 comments

Leave a Reply