Nobody likes to hear the “C” word, especially when it comes to our beloved family members – human and canine alike. Our dogs are at risk for as many different types of cancers as people are with all different sorts of symptoms. That said, there are many cancer varieties that have similar signs and if you see them, you’ll want to be sure to seek veterinary attention. Early detection is the best prevention, so staying on top of your dog’s health and knowing what symptoms to look for is important, especially when it comes to a fast-growing illness like cancer. Although some cancers are thought to be hereditary, in general, they don’t discriminate between gender, age, breed or size of dog.
#1 – Weight Loss
Unplanned weight loss is almost always a cause for concern. If you have your dog on a diet or are exercising more frequently, then shedding a few pounds is likely something you’re going to be pleased with. But if you’re not actively trying to take weight off your dog, unexplained weight loss is generally a tell-tale sign of illness. Cancers are very fast growing cells that take up a lot of energy. They will consume your dog’s nutrition, leaving your poor pup with nothing. Because of this, you’ll see a quick decline in both fat and muscle mass.
#2 – Swellings, Lumps, Bumps
Cancer comes in many different forms, but tumors are often easily recognized. You might notice bumps and sores on your dog’s skin, lumps underneath your dog’s skin or hard growths on legs, toes, elbows and even tails. These can all be different kinds of tumors. Skin cancers and bone cancers are probably the most noticeable of the cancers because they create such obvious tumors that can be seen and felt with ease. Thankfully, there are benign tumors and cysts that your dog can get, so don’t immediately be alarmed if you notice a lump, bump or swelling. That said, it is best to seek veterinary attention and rule out any dangerous illnesses.
#3 – Lethargy
Cancer cells grow rapidly and take a lot of energy out of your dog. They’re like leeches – they suck out all of the nutrients and leave your dog feeling tired and weak. Since our dogs can’t tell us when they’re not feeling well in words, we have to listen to their actions. If you notice your dog seems a little less excited about going on walks or playing fetch, or simply doesn’t want to do anything at all, you’ll want to seek veterinary attention. Lethargy can be caused by many different illnesses, from mild to life-threatening ones, so it’s important not to overlook this symptom.
#4 – Loss of Appetite
Some dogs are picky eaters, while others will eat everything, all of the time, forever. Only you know what’s normal for your dog, so only you will be able to tell when he or she is experiencing a loss of appetite. That said, if you notice your dog is skipping meals or eating less than normal, you’ll want to take it up with a veterinarian. A loss of appetite generally means that your dog is feeling ill and there are many different illnesses that can create this symptom. Cancer is unfortunately one of these, so seeking medical help as soon as you notice it is important.
#5 – Sores That Won’t Heal
Accompanied with the lumps and bumps your dog might have, you might notice some are open sores that aren’t healing. Skin cancers often appear as sores and bumps that don’t heal and continually appear inflamed. Having these checked by a veterinarian will rule out any cancers and will allow you to start treatment early should the results come back as malignant. Further, cancer weakens the immune system and you might notice that your dog is having trouble healing from non-cancer related injuries. Either way, if there is a wound that isn’t healing, a veterinarian should be consulted.
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