Cancer can develop in any dog at any stage in life, but is found most commonly in dogs that are in their later senior years (10 and up). This means that owners should be aware of how cancer can affect their dog and be able to detect early warning signs to ensure the health of their four-legged friend.
Something that every pet owner should do is routinely inspect their dog both physically and mentally. That doesn’t mean that you sit your pup down in a psychologist’s chair and talk to them. Many cancers can affect their daily habits, such as eating and sleeping. Dogs love routine, so radical changes in their behavior should be taken seriously. Many dogs will begin to show behavioral signs that something is wrong, such as loss of appetite or repeatedly licking a single localized area that may appear irritated or swollen. The physical inspection is just as important, and in order to tell the difference in their bodies, you’ll need to consistently check them for physical changes such as lumps between their arms and chest area, swellings, unusual discharges, and difficulty breathing (when they’re awake).
These signs don’t always provide the needed time to treat cancer properly, which is why researching your dog’s breed and regular checkups with the vet are crucial to ensuring your dog’s health. Dog breed can play a part in their predisposition towards certain cancers. Many times, purebreds are at a greater risk because of genetic diseases that can lead to cancerous growths. This disease is one of the leading killers of pet greyhounds and there are some breeds even more predisposed to it than greyhounds, boxers come to mind. Regular checkups with the vet can greatly increase the chances that you will discover the cancer early on, and prevent any further growth or damage with the proper treatment.
But cancer isn’t just on the surface. Some of these cancers can affect various parts of a dog’s body, and aren’t always limited to the skin. This means that you can’t always detect all forms of cancer with a physical inspection. Just like humans, dogs can also get breast and testicular cancer, especially if genetic diseases such as Cryptorchidism are already present. These diseases will often have an effect on a dog’s habits and mental state since these areas affect their hormonal levels. Spaying or neutering your dog can greatly reduce the likelihood of these cancers if done early enough.
But, not all cancers are always dangerous. There are two types of cancer, one being benign, which is harmless and rarely interacts with the surrounding tissues, but results in growths or discoloration of the skin or even fur. The other is malignant, which are usually aggressive and attack the body and tissue, resulting in illness, pain, swelling, and discomfort. When you detect abnormalities in your dog, it is important that you take them to the veterinarian to get them checked out. The vet will normally analyze the growth through biopsy, blood tests, x-rays, and ultra sounds to confirm the purpose of the growth.
Some treatments can involve chemotherapy, just like in humans. This treatment is hard on the body because it attacks the cancerous cells to inhibit growth, but unfortunately will also affect the immune system as well. The positive side is that it can save your dog’s life, or at least extend it, even with severe cancers such as lymphoma (cancer in the lymph system which is part of the immune system). Dogs will usually suffer from vomiting, dizziness, and nausea, but rarely lose their fur.
Tumors and growths can also be treated with surgeries and operations, in which a surgeon would remove the tumor or cancerous tissues to prevent further growth or infection of nearby organs and tissues.
Of course, waiting to see if your dog will get cancer is no way to take care of your pup. An active, healthy lifestyle and the proper diet also play a role in the development of cancer. This is why it is so important to make sure that you take care of your dog’s health on a daily basis. Take your dog for a walk regularly, feed them the right diet (human food is not dog food), and ensure proper grooming to prevent infections that can result from ticks and fleas. Brushing and oral care will also help prevent gum diseases that can cause cancer of the mouth, which can be extremely painful for a dog. Take care of your dog’s health, and you can help prevent any unnecessary cancers later in life.
Early detection and treatment are vital for your dog’s health. If left untreated, even small cancers that affect the skin can spread to organs and even the lymph system. With early detection, many cancers can be treated and can save your best friend’s life.