Is cancer in dogs common?
Cancer is pretty common in our canine patients, especially our older patients, mid-age to more senior. The latest statistics show that our pets have about a 50% chance of developing some type of cancer in their lifetime.
What are the common types of cancer in dogs, and some common signs and symptoms?
Some of the common cancers that we see are skin-type cancers. They would be mast cell-type tumors, or maybe mammary gland tumors, such as carcinomas. We can see lymph node cancer where all the lymph nodes are involved, or we can also see cancers related to the mouth, oral cancers. Bone cancers can be very problematic for our dogs in terms of just overall discomfort. And it can be significantly limiting in terms of lifespan, or perhaps in terms of losing a limb because the dog has bone cancer. There are other skin-type cancers other than mast cell tumors, such as melanomas. So, many common cancers that people get, we're finding that our pets can get too.
And things to look for and be observant about are any kind of lumps or bumps that might pop up, whether they are red or black, or what their color is. Do they change a lot? Are they the same size all the time, or do they fluctuate? Are they bigger one day? Are they smaller the next day? Those are signs to look for, especially if we're even considering that there might be a cancerous process going on. Aside from that, some of our more internal type cancers could potentially cause weight loss, recurrent GI problems, or maybe even our abdomen swells in size if we have something affecting the spleen.
Why is early detection and diagnosis of cancer in dogs so important?
It's important in our pets because the quicker we can detect it, the better chance we have of treating it—whether that is through surgery, or whether it's through chemotherapy drugs, or other types of therapy as well.
How will a veterinarian diagnose cancer in my dog?
It's going to vary depending on what we think we're dealing with. Our clients often think that we can do a blood test, and it will tell us that there's some type of cancer there, and that's not entirely true for every case. Some cancerous situations may show some indication from blood work. Still, the majority of the time, it's going to be through some type of biopsy, a needle aspirate from a lump on the skin, or through x-ray, or through ultrasound with a needle-guided biopsy. Or if we see a particular kind of cell under a microscope that maybe we find in your dog's urine, that could be indicative of a cancerous process going on in the bladder.
What treatment options are available for dogs with cancer?
Today, we have many treatment options for our canine cancer patients. It can range anywhere from chemotherapy, whether it's a one-time treatment or a series of treatments. Radiation is also available depending upon where you are. Those are the traditional treatments that we think of. But we also have some alternative therapies available to us that would resemble using Chinese herbal medications or perhaps some other alternative modalities.
What are some possible side effects caused by cancer treatments?
A common side effect of cancer treatment is going to be an upset stomach. A lot of these drugs are so effective at what they do, but they also cause nausea, vomiting, and often inappetence. And those things can be annoying, especially if you have to do a series of treatments. But there are preventive strategies to help with that if we see those. And just overall, the dog is probably not feeling well. Some of these drugs just make you feel not too well overall. And we know that happens in people we know who have had cancer treatments, and we see it in our dog cases.
If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (615) 224-7776, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.