Early signs of cancer in dogs

Early signs of cancer in dogs

With world health day approaching, what better issue to tackle than the early signs of dog cancer. One of the scariest of all deseases, cancer is unfortunately more and more common in dogs too. It can be down to a bad diet, hormonal changes or genetics. In some cases they are easy to spot, so here are some of the most common signs to look out for.

So what is cancer?

Before we jump into the symptoms it is important to define what cancer is. It is a disease, where cells grow out of control and spread so much, that they invade surrounding tissue. Just like in humans, there are many forms of cancer in dogs too. It can be localized, meaning it is only at one area of the body, or generalized – spreading through the entire body. Just like in humans, cancer in dogs is multifactorial. It means that it isn’t caused by one singe factor, but a multitude of things, eg. hereditary or environmental factors.

Wile it cannot always be prevented, we can take certain steps to reduce the chances of our pets developing cancer. Having young pets neutered or spayed can for example reduce the risk of reproductive cancers. Healthy nutrition and enough exercise can also help ward of the disease. Some vets recommend antioxidant supplements to boost your pup’s immune system. Vitamins A, C, E, beta carotene, lycopene, and the mineral selenium are some of the nutrients you should include in your dog’s diet.

When it comes to saving your dog’s life, spotting symptoms early is key. Now, it is important to mention that dogs can be very sick and show signs at all. That’s why it’s important to keep up with regular health checks. Here are some of the early signs of cancer that you can look out for:

Rapid, unexplained weight loos or gain

Weight loss is a particularly common sign of canine cancer and may indicate a gastrointestinal tumor that is otherwise undetectable from the outside. If your dog starts losing weight rapidly, whether their appetite changes or stays the same, get to the vet ASAP. Sudden weight gain or bloating can also be a sign of cancer. If your dog maintains their regular appetite but seems to gain weight quickly, it’s time for a check-up.


Old dogs slow down. It is unfortunate and unavoidable, however sudden loss of energy might signal something else. If your active, happy puppy is suddenly not interested in toys or going out for a walk, then it’s worth paying more attention to. Lethargy is different from plain old tiredness in that it alters your dog’s enthusiasm level. Signs of lethargy may include excessive sleep and delayed responses to visual and auditory stimuli. Lethargy is a general symptom of a broad range of issues, so it doesn’t automatically signal cancer. But if your dog is suddenly a lot less active than usual, something could be going on.

Loss of appetite

Most dogs live for dinner, so if your dog is suddenly not interested in her meal, then it might mean something is off. Loss of appetite is often paired with nausea, or throwing up and as soon as you notice it and promptly take your pup to the vet. For more info on the best nutrients to feed to your pup, read our article.

Unusual odors

All dos have bad breath. But if you notice an unusual, foul smell from the mouth, nose or rear area then it might be sign of cancer. Tumors in the mouth, nose or anus can lead to offensive smells. It can be a sign of stomach or digestive tract issues too.

Lumps or masses

Unusual swellings, lumps, or bumps that persist or continue to get larger are not a good sign either. These growths could appear anywhere on your dog’s body, so be sure to examine your entire pet regularly. If you notice a lump, be sure to take your pet to the vet, for a biopsy.

Trouble urinating

Changes in your dog’s bathroom behavior could potentially indicate cancer in the bladder or kidneys. As such, you should take notice if you find that your dog is starting to relieve herself less frequently or is having difficulty passing a bowel movement.

Although all the above list can indicate causes for concern, these signs don’t necessarily mean that your dog has cancer. It is worth keeping a close eye on your dog’s behavior, or changes of behavior, nonetheless some of these symptoms might indicate other illnesses. Many of the treatments used on humans can also be used on dogs, including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy (drug therapy used to kill or slow cancer’s growth). Treatment will vary, depending on a dog’s specific diagnosis. Dog cancer is a terrifying diagnosis, but the disease is often treatable or even curable, thanks to specialized treatments. Always contact your vet for further, in depth diagnosis and treatment!

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