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7 symptoms of cancer in dogs

Brown and white English bulldog on the carpet advice
© Pixabay

Cancer. It’s the worst word in the world. But it’s better to hear it sooner than later. Knowing the symptoms of cancer in dogs can help you alert your vet to a problem as soon as possible. The quicker you catch it, the better chance your dog has of a full and healthy life.

By G. John Cole

There are many signs of cancer in dogs, and some can be mistaken for other things. Your dog’s body is a complicated matter. So keeping an eye on her and noting any changes is important if you want to catch any kind of illness before it does more damage.

Symptoms of cancer in dogs

Cancer can be more prevalent in ageing dogs. But it might affect a dog of any age. Spaying a female dog when she’s young may reduce the risk of breast cancer. And giving your dog a healthy, natural diet and plenty of exercise is always a good idea.

Still, these are some dog cancer symptoms you should look out for.

#1: Tumours

If you find a lump or bump under your dog’s skin, take her to see vet. A lump isn’t necessarily a tumour. And a tumour isn’t necessarily cancer. If you find something like a tumour, or your vet says he’s found one, you should clarify whether it’s cancer or not.

Usually a ‘benign’ tumour (one that’s not spreading) is not described as cancer. But a malignant tumour with the potential to spread, will be cancer.

Like any cancer symptom, a bump could also be a sign of something else. Your vet will need as much information as possible about changes in your dog’s health and behaviour so he can make a diagnosis.

#2: Sores or lesions

A sore can be a symptom of anything from a bite to an infection to an auto-immune disorder, or a combination of the above! But if it refuses to heal itself, it could be a sign of skin cancer.

#3: Weight loss or appetite loss

Your dog’s stomach may seem like the centre of her world. And in many ways, it is. It’s connected very intimately with her mouth, liver, and kidneys. And it is a sensitive instrument in its own right.

If you dog starts to show symptoms consistent with stomach trouble, such as a reduced appetite, or losing weight with no other explanation (such as a diet), she could have a cancer issue in any of these areas. It is important to get her checked quickly, as it can spread fast.

Older dogs can lose weight naturally. Like the best of us, their shape changes with time. You should take her for a regular check-up every six months, but if she has a drastic weight loss or any other symptoms between check-ups, you should go to the vet together as a matter of urgency.

A loss of appetite may also be connected to her neck. An unseen lump in her neck may be pressing on her oesophagus, making it more difficult for her to swallow.

#4: Bleeding from the nostrils, mouth, or bum

Dogs rarely seem to get nosebleeds – compared to humans, at least. If you spot blood coming from her nose, then, it is cause for concern.

Bleeding gums may be a matter of dentistry. But if there is blood coming up from your dog’s stomach in vomit, discharge, or dribble, you should be concerned.

#5: A bad smell

Ok, so your dog likes to get her fart on in the evening. But a more general bad odour may be connected to a tumour, especially if it’s in the mouth, nose, or anus, where it can affect the glands.

#6: Lethargy

Again, older dogs tend to slow down like the rest of us. But you can usually tell when something’s wrong.

A dog that is increasingly reluctant to exercise because she is lame or has breathing trouble could be showing signs of cancer. Lameness (limping) can also be a warning of an unseen tumour. It can be a good idea to keep a diary of your dog’s behaviour, so that it’s easier to notice changes over time.

#7: Toilet trouble

Cancer can affect your dog’s poo and urine habits. She may struggle to pee or poo, or she may lose control over it altogether.

Your dog’s toilet business is a keen indicator of her health, which means you should watch it closely.

If you discover one or more of these symptoms, go to see a vet! Hopefully, it’s not cancer – but something minor instead. But even if it is cancer, the sooner you catch it the better the odds for your beloved dog.