What is Cancer in Dogs?

What is Cancer in Dogs?

PHC LLCAug 27, '19

Cancer is the number one cause of death of elderly dogs. Experts say all cancers can be cured if diagnosed early. Dave Ruslander, the former president of the Veterinary Cancer Society, stated this in an interview. Prevention is always better than cure.


Different Types of Cancer in Dogs


Unlike other animals, canines are susceptible to the same type of cancer that develop in humans. Many things can cause cancer. The food you feed your and the substances they are exposed to are only some examples.


The uncontrolled growth of body cells is the main cause of cancer. Cancer cells and malignant cells can originate in any tissue. If a malignant tumor isn’t diagnosed early, it will grow in size and connect with the lymph or the circulatory system.


As a pet owner, here are the most common types of cancers in dogs that you should watch out for.


  • Hemangiosarcoma


This dog cancer is incurable. It grows along the endothelial tissues that line blood vessels. Dogs of any breed and age are susceptible to hemangiosarcoma.


However, German shepherds and Golden Retrievers are more vulnerable to this type of cancer than other breeds. This is why you must bring such dogs to the vet for additional screening if they are over the age of 5 years.


Hemangiosarcoma is often painless and develops slowly. Clinical signs appear when the tumors are already resistant to treatments. Such tumors are hard to detect.


Less than 50% of dogs survive for over 6 months after the initial treatment. Many die because of internal bleeding.


  • Lymphoma


Lymphoma can affect dogs of any age and breed. Oftentimes, it appears as swollen lymph nodes that you can feel under the neck, knee, or upper arm of your dog.

Sometimes, it develops in the lymph nodes located in the abdomen or chest. If this happens, you or a vet cannot detect the tumors by physical examination.


Lymphoma can cause digestive troubles and breathing difficulties. Generally, lymphomas are considered treatable if diagnosed in the early stages.


Golden Retrievers, Australian Shepherds, and Standard Poodles are some breeds with a higher incidence of this type of cancer.


  • Osteosarcoma


Osteosarcoma (OS) is the most common bone cancer in canines. It accounts for 85% of cancerous tumors that grow in the skeletal system of dogs. Even though it mostly develops in old and large dogs, it can grow in dogs of any age or size as well.


OS can develop in several areas. Commonly, it affects the bones that border the knee, paw, and shoulder. Some symptoms include lameness in the affected area or swelling at the leg or arm.


  • Malignant Brain Tumors


Extreme behavior changes or frequent seizures are clinical signs of a malignant brain tumor in your dog. MRI or CAT scanning is utilized to determine the severity, size, and location of the tumor. If the tumor is operable, surgery may be required. If it isn’t, radiation therapy or chemotherapy will be suggested.


  • Cancer in the Bladder


Transitional cell carcinoma is a malignant and aggressive cancer of the bladder that affects cats and dogs. Oftentimes, it grows along the ureters and in the urethra. It disrupts normal urine flow and obstructs the urinary tract.


Its symptoms include blood in urine, urinary incontinence, and inability to urinate


  • Mammary Carcinoma


Non-spayed females are at risk of developing this type of cancer. Nevertheless, all female dogs can develop mammary carcinoma. 50% of mammary tumors are malignant. Veterinarians often suggest surgery instead of chemotherapy to cure this cancer.


  • Malignant Histiocytosis


This dog cancer occurs more often in larger breeds. Malignant histiocytosis can grow in the lymph nodes, spleen, lungs, skin, joints, and bone marrow of dogs.


It’s a rare hereditary cancer found in the Bernese Mountain dog. As of today, there is no effective therapy for Malignant histiocytosis. 


  • Squamous Cell Carcinomas


This often manifest in the nail beds and the mouth of dogs. Surgical removal and early detection is the most effective treatment. Less than 20% of dogs develop this metastatic disease.


However, squamous cell carcinomas in the tongue and tonsils are aggressive and malignant. Despite treatment measures, fewer than 15% of dogs survive for 12 months after detection of the cancer.


  • Melanoma


Canines with dark skin are more affected by melanoma than other breeds. Melanomas develop in areas of the skin that are exposed to sunlight. But it also affects the mouth, toenail beds, and distal limbs.


In dogs, melanoma is an incurable disease. The tumors can spread into other tissues and organs. When the cancer has spread, surgical removal is not an option.


How to Prevent Cancer in Dogs


  • Neuter your pet.
  • Minimize sun exposure.
  • Provide healthy food.
  • Feed your dog with cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.
  • Schedule regular cancer screening.
  • Limit injections and exposure to herbicides and pesticides.
  • Avoid toxins.
  • Do not use carcinogenic substances at home, such as asbestos, benzene, arsenic, and beryllium
  • Prevent viral infections.
  • As a pet owner, you should quit smoking.


Symptoms of Cancer in Dogs


If you witness these symptoms in your dog, it is recommended to visit your veterinarian.


  • Bumps and lumps under your dog’s skin
  • Abnormal and stinky odors emanating from the ears, mouth, and other body parts
  • Swelling in the stomach
  • Excessive watery or yellowish discharge in the ears, rectum, and mouth
  • Non-healing sores and wounds
  • Irreversible and sudden weight loss
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Depression and lethargy
  • Pain


How to Treat Cancer


Treatments for dog cancer are similar to human therapies. However, there is a lack of evidence as to whether the combination of multiple treatments is effective or not.


  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Herbal or holistic treatment
  • Chemotherapy


Sometimes, combining two therapies work well. But take note that some form of treatments can cause unintended harm. Always seek the advice of a reliable veterinarian regarding this matter.


If you think your dog may have cancer, visit your trusted veterinarian. When malignant tumors are detected in their early stages, treatment, such as chemotherapy, can cure the disease. However, if cancer has already proliferated into multiple body parts, consider the professional advice of your veterinarian.