Cancer in pets can come in the most unexpected times, in the most unexpected ways, and to the most unexpected hosts. That is why it is so very important to be aware of it, to know how to treat it, and to be prepared for the worst. This article is the beginning of a series to help prepare a pet owner whose dog may have cancer. Some pets do not show outwardly that they are inwardly sick, and Dr. Phil Zeltzman, founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team – and veterinarian of over twenty years – says that in many cases, even bloodwork does not accurately show whether or not a pet has cancer – so how is one able to tell? Here are some signs given from Dr. Zeltzman that your dog may have cancer.

1)    Abnormal Swellings under the Skin

If a growth appears under your pet’s skin, it could either be a benign or cancerous tumor. You should contact your veterinarian right away instead of just watching it while it continues to grow, and quite possibly gets worse. If it is benign, it should still be removed. If it is cancerous, you and your veterinarian can talk about options how to deal with it.

2)    Sores

These sores to watch out for do not heal, despite antibiotics or ointment.

3)    Weight Loss

If your pet is abnormally losing weight, it could be that your pet has a tumor along his intestine.

4)    No Appetite

If your pet is all of a sudden not eating his food, it could be that he has a mass pushing on his stomach, making him feel sick.

5)    Swallowing Difficulty

If your pet has a cancerous lump in his neck, pushing against the esophagus, he will have much difficulty swallowing food.

6)    Bleeding or Discharge

A common sign of nose cancer is bleeding of the nose. Bleeding of the nose is not always a sign of cancer, but it is still wise to get your dog checked out if it happens.

7)    Bad Odor

Dr. Phil talks about a pet with cancer he once treated. He says, “She had a large mass near her anus. Biopsies showed that it was cancer. The odor stemmed from multiple draining tracts from which pus came out. A culture showed that 4 different bacteria were growing in there!”

8)    Loss of Stamina

In some cancer cases, a dog could have an increasing loss of energy and stamina. This could be a result of a tumor on the heart.

9)    Persistent Lameness/Stiffness

Many dogs are lame and have no cancer, so one should not panic right away if he sees signs of lameness; however, stiffness and any swelling in the legs could be a sign of bone cancer.

10)  All-around Difficulty

Dr. Zeltzman states that “this could be due to a mass putting pressure on the respiratory system (wind pipe, lung), urinary system (bladder, urethra) or digestive system (rectum, anus).”

It is important that you keep your eye out for signs of sickness in your dog, but DO NOT PANIC. Just because your dog is tired for a day, or does not smell minty-fresh does not mean that he has cancer. There could be multiple explanations; however, it is important to keep a watchful eye, and to contact your veterinarian if you have any questions whatsoever. Dr. Phil Zeltzman concludes by encouraging pet owners to “pet your dog all over and often, and see your family veterinarian regularly for checkups.” If things seem very serious, do not hesitate to make an appointment with your vet to see what is going on, and whether or not you need to find out about how to treat a dog with cancer.

By Erica Smith – Staff Writer
Staff Writer Erika Smith