Dogs and Cancer – Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

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Signs of Cancer in Dogs and What to Do.

With good vet care, our dogs are living longer; but with longer lives, comes a higher risk of developing cancer, just like in humans. Cancer is a leading cause of death among dogs, especially those who are 10 years and older Many of us are not aware of it and as such hardly pay attention to the symptoms. Most of these cancers are treatable, however, but only caught early.

Q: What is the frequency of cancer in dogs and which types are most common?

A: Nearly 50% of dogs over the age of 10 years suffer from some form of cancer. Common types include malignant lymphoma of the lymph nodes and mast cell cancer of the skin. Since dogs are mammals, breast cancer is also common, along with bone cancer and soft tissue sarcomas.

Q: What are some of the symptoms?

A: The signs and symptoms are quite similar to the ones that we notice in people suffering from cancer. They may include: a bump or lump that refuses to heal; swelling of the lymph node or bone; excessive bleeding; and weight loss. However, during the initial stages, symptoms are often difficult to detect. If your senior dog starts to act unwell or begins showing these signs, see a vet immediately and express your concerns.

Q: What is the cause behind rising cancer rates in dogs?

A: As we have become more attentive to the health of our canine friends, keeping them well-groomed and up to date on vaccination, we can enjoy their company for as much as 15 years! However, dogs age much faster than humans, so the longer they live, the more genetic errors they accumulate, until some cells become cancerous. Canine cancers can also be caused by genetic tendencies depending on breed and certain types of viruses. Naturally, carcinogens in the environment can cause cancers in dogs just as they do in humans.

Q: Are some dog breeds more or less prone to cancer than others?

A: There are certain breeds of dogs that are found to be more prone to cancer. Common among them include:

    • Golden retrievers
    • Flat-coated retrievers
    • Boxers
    • Bernese Mountain dogs

Mixed breed dogs are actually less susceptible to cancer at least genetically, because variation in their genes allows for a safety net in case some genes fail.

Q: What can I do to help prevent my dog from getting cancer?

A: There are preventative measures depending on the type of cancer. For instance, the best way to prevent a female dog from developing breast cancer is by getting her spayed. If this is done before she goes into heat for the first time, her chances of breast cancer later in life are reduced by as much as 80%.

Just like humans, dogs too need oral care if you wish to minimize the chances of oral cancer developing from persistent bacterial infections of the mouth.

If you are choosing a pure-bred dog, ask the breeder for its pedigree to find out if any dogs in its line suffered from cancer or not.

Q: If my dog is suffering from cancer, is it best to put him to sleep?

A: Not necessarily. Many cancers can be surgically removed, and medications can help with recovery and prevention. Just as cancer is becoming less and less a death sentence for humans, medical care for dogs is advancing likewise.

Q: What kinds of treatments are available?

A: Conventional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation are available for dogs in select animal hospitals. Immunotherapy is another promising option. Treatment costs are significantly lower than for humans from around $1,000 to as much as $15,000.

Q: What’s the cure rate for dogs with cancer?

A: Nearly 60% of dogs diagnosed with cancer are cured. However, if left untreated, the chances of survival fall considerably.

Have you noticed any symptoms of cancer in your dog? It is always best to consult with a vet when in doubt. Cancer is curable provided you take your dog to the veterinarian at the right time.