According to PetMD, 50 percent of dogs over the age of 10 develop cancer at some point in their life. Unsurprisingly, early detection is key to helping your pup get a couple extra years. Below, is a list of 10 warning signs of cancer from The Veterinary Cancer Center that well-informed dog parents should keep in mind.
1. Swollen lymph nodes: While these glands are located throughout the body, they are easiest to detect under the jaw or behind the knee. If enlarged, they can suggest a common form of cancer called lymphoma. A biopsy or cytology of these enlarged lymph nodes can aid in the obtaining a diagnosis.
2. An enlarging or changing lump: Any lump on a dog that is rapidly growing or changing in texture or shape should have a biopsy. Lumps belong in biopsy jars, not on pets.
3. Abdominal distension: When the “stomach” or belly becomes enlarged rapidly, this may suggest a mass or tumor in the abdomen or indicate bleeding that is occurring in this area. A radiograph or ultrasound of the abdomen can be very useful in this situation.
4. Chronic weight loss: When a dog is losing weight and they are not on a diet, they should be checked. This sign is not diagnostic for cancer, but can indicate that something is wrong since many cancer patients suffer from weight loss.
5. Chronic vomiting or diarrhea: Unexplained vomiting or diarrhea should prompt further investigation. Tumors of the gastrointestinal tract can often cause chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea. Radiographs, ultrasound examinations and endoscopy are useful diagnostic tools when this occurs.
6. Unexplained bleeding: Bleeding, that is not the result of trauma, from the mouth, nose, gums, or blood in the urine or stool should be examined. Although bleeding disorders occur in dogs, they usually are discovered at a young age. If unexplained bleeding starts when a pet is older, a thorough examination should be undertaken.
7. Cough: A dry, non-productive cough in an older pet should prompt chest radiographs. While this type of cough is the most common sign of lung cancer, remember there are many causes of coughs in dogs.
8. Lameness: Unexplained lameness, especially in large or giant breed dogs, is a very common sign of bone cancer. Radiographs of the affected area are used to detect cancer of the bone.
9. Straining to urinate: Straining to urinate and blood in the urine usually indicate a urinary tract infection. However, if the straining and bleeding do not resolve rapidly with antibiotics or are recurrent, cancer of the bladder may be the underlying cause. Cystoscopy or other techniques allow a veterinarian to take a biopsy of the bladder and help to establish a definitive diagnosis.
10. Oral odors: Oral tumors do occur in dogs and can lead to a change in food preference (i.e. from hard to soft foods) or cause a dog to change how they chew their food. Many times a foul odor can be detected in pets with oral tumors. A thorough oral examination with radiographs or CT scan, requiring sedation, is often necessary to determine the underlying cause.