How to Spot Early Cancer Signs in Your Dog

Cancer. It’s a six-letter word none of us want to hear and it affects 50% of senior dogs older than ten. While that alarming statistic has grown in recent years, the good news is, many cancers are treatable if caught early.

As a pet lover, you may wonder what causes cancer in dogs and how can you recognize the symptoms? In this post, we’ll share some of the common cancer symptoms as well as a few of the typical types of cancer that dogs get.

But first, why are so many of our four legged friends developing this terrible disease? Many professionals believe it’s because our dogs are living longer -- like people and that creates the opportunity for more disease to occur. As cancer has become an epidemic with the human population, it makes sense that it would affect our pets too.

As you may know, cancer is caused by the multiplying of mutant cells. They can move quickly and spread throughout the body. When this happens, it’s often referred to as metastatic cancer. Once the cancer has spread, it’s difficult to treat. However, if we catch it early, it’s more likely to be concentrated in a single area and easier to manage.

What type of cancer might your dog get? Well, like people, dogs are susceptible to cancers of various types.

4 Common Cancers that Affect Dogs

Lymphoma affects the lymph nodes and causes them to swell up to the size of golf balls. In case you don’t know, dogs have lymph nodes all over their bodies. Lymph nodes are found under the chin, at the back of the leg, near the leg joint, and around the shoulder.

Mast Cell Tumors can be in any tissue of your pet but in about 20% of dogs, you’ll see them on the skin. They often look like lesions or a bump. If they’re on the skin, a surgical procedure can usually remove them.

Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer. It typically affects the bones near the shoulder, wrist, and knee. If your dog shows signs of pain like limping, or there’s unusual swelling in those areas, you’ll want to make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Mouth and Nose Cancer symptoms include difficulty eating, abnormal growths on the gums, and facial swelling. This can be an aggressive form of cancer so if you see anything unusual, you’ll want to make a veterinarian appointment quickly.

There are eight other types of cancer that affect dogs too. 

Dog Cancer Symptoms

As mentioned, unusual lumps could indicate lymphoma, unusual swelling, wounds that don’t heal, change in appetite or behavior are all signs of potential cancer. To be proactive, it’s a good idea to maintain regular veterinary visits and make an appointment if something seems unusual.

Anytime your pet’s behavior changes, that’s a signal that something is “off” and you’ll want to pay extra attention. For example, if your usually active pup suddenly starts acting withdrawn and lethargic, that’s a sign that there could be a health issue. Unusual lumps, bumps, and changes in demeanor are all definitely reasons to make an appointment.

During your pet’s annual wellness exam, your veterinarian will look for typical cancer symptoms. If your veterinarian detects cancer, they’ll discuss your options with you. Treatment plans are usually determined by the health and age of your dog as well as the type and stage of cancer. 

Anytime you see or feel unusual lumps on your pet’s body, that’s a signal to make a vet appointment. Don't have a trusted one yet? We can help you find a local veterinarian

Contributing DVM