Dog running with stick

Cancer

With todays advances in modern medicine, dogs are living longer and healthier lives. However, the risk of developing diseases associated with old age, such as cancer, is increasing. About 1 in 4 dogs will develop a tumour during its life and almost 50% of dogs over 10 years old will die of a cancer-related disease.

How is cancer diagnosed?

As pet owners, we can keep an eye on our dogs for signs of cancer. However, most dogs with cancer otherwise appear happy and healthy, and a growing lump may be the only abnormality.1 Regular annual health checks with your veterinarian are highly recommended to detect any abnormality as early as possible.

10 common signs of cancer in dogs include:1

  • Abnormal swellings or lumps that grow
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Loss of appetite
  • Offensive breath
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Persistent lameness or stiffness
  • Breathlessness, loss of stamina
  • Difficulty urinating or defecating
  • Bleeding or discharge from any part of the body

How is cancer treated?

The most important part of cancer treatment is early diagnosis and your dog’s annual health check with your veterinarian is very important.1

There are many different types of cancers and the treatment options for each type of cancer will be different. Further investigation with X-rays, biopsies, ultrasound and blood tests etc. may be required for a full assessment of the cancer.

After your veterinarian assesses your dog, they will share with you a number of options for the management of your dog’s condition. They may also refer you to a cancer specialist.

Treatment options include

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy and
  • Other therapies

Is my dog too old for cancer treatment?

Age is not a barrier to cancer treatment as long as your dog is healthy.1 In veterinary medicine, quality of life is the most important consideration when it comes to deciding on treatment options.

The aim of veterinary cancer treatments is to keep side effects to a minimum and maintain a good quality of life for your dog. Cancer treatments in dogs often achieve cure or good periods of remission with return to an excellent quality of life.

What is the expected course and prognosis if my dog is diagnosed with cancer?

Cancers in dogs can be treated and in many cases, cured. The success of the treatment will depend on several factors, including:

  • Type of tumour
  • Stage of the tumour is when it is first detected
  • Treatments used

The earlier a tumour is detected, the earlier treatment can be started and the better the chance of cure. Many tumours, including many that are malignant, can be cured if caught early enough.1

Some tumours may not be curable, but can be kept under control for a good period of time for your pet to enjoy a normal, happy and excellent quality of life.1

Unfortunately, some tumours may be too advanced and palliative care to reduce clinical signs and maintain quality of life will be the main aim of treatment.1 In the final stages of cancer, euthanasia may sadly need to be considered.

1. European Society of Veterinary Oncology, accessed 31st Jan 2012