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Dog Cancer - Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment


At Creekside Animal Hospital, we understand that your dog is a treasured family member. The mutual bond of love and loyalty between you can make a diagnosis of any form of dog cancer very difficult to hear.

Our veterinarians and support staff are here to guide you both through the diagnosis and treatment process. This includes choosing the best options for effectively, humanely, and successfully dealing with cancer.

Vet in the Woodlands

Unlike many other species of animals, dogs are susceptible to the types of cancer as humans. Cancer is caused by the uncontrolled growth of cells in the body. These cells can originate in any of the body's tissues. If not found and stopped in time, cancer can expand and connect with the circulatory or lymph systems, and also can spread and infect other tissues in the body. Canine cancer is the leading cause of death for dogs 10 years of age and older. However, half of all cancer in dogs is treatable if it is treated in its early stages.

What can I do?

Early detection and treatment are key to preserving your dog's health and quality of life. This includes:

Routine wellness exams

It is extremely important to schedule periodic wellness exams for your canine companion. During these preventive exams, your veterinarian can check your dog for signs of canine cancer. Treating canine cancer before it advances is key to successful recovery Some tumors in dogs cannot be visualized but can be palpated (felt with touch) by your veterinarian during the exam. For instance, an enlarged spleen may be palpable to your veterinarian but not visible to the owner.

Diligent care and observations at home

Owners most commonly find a tumor on their dog while petting or bathing. It is important to periodically inspect your fur baby for any abnormal lumps If you are running your hand over any part of your dog's body and feel a lump, call to make an appointment with your veterinarian. Therefore and keep a semi-annual veterinary appointment schedule.

What are the symptoms and signs of cancer in dogs?

Some signs of cancer in dogs are easy to spot and others are not. Signs of cancer in dogs may vary greatly depending upon several factors. However, the following list identifies some of the most common signs of cancer in dogs:

  • A growing or changing lump or bump
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Abnormal odors emanating from the mouth, ears or any other part of the body
  • Abnormal discharge or bleeding from the eyes, mouth, ears or rectum
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Non-healing wounds or sores
  • Sudden and irreversible weight loss
  • Change in appetite
  • Coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Lethargy or depression
  • Recurrent vomiting and diarrhea
  • Difficulty with breathing, chewing, swallowing, urinating and defecating
  • Evidence of pain

Should you witness any signs of cancer in your dog, we strongly recommend making a veterinary appointment immediately!

How is canine cancer diagnosed?

Only a veterinarian can accurately diagnose canine cancer. Our veterinarian will likely want to do a needle aspirate to get cells from the tumor to get basic information about the tumor type and can confirm a diagnosis for certain types of cancer.  Sometimes you can see evidence of tumors and sometimes they are deep within the body of the dog. Additional tests, such as radiographs (x-rays), blood tests, and ultrasound exams, may be necessary.  Sometimes a biopsy – taking a tissue sample from the tumor for examination under a microscope – is often necessary to confirm the diagnosis and help determine if the neoplasm is benign or malignant. The diagnosis is helpful in determining what if any type of surgery and or follow up care may be necessary.  Additional cytology or biopsies of other tissues, such as lymph nodes, may be necessary to determine how far cancer has spread. Advanced imaging such as computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or positron emission tomography (PET) scan can also improve the understanding of the tumor’s location and possible treatment options.

Are all dogs with cancer candidates for treatment?

Several factors influence cancer treatment decisions for dogs with cancer, including:

  • Age 
  • General health 
  • Type of cancer
  • Biological behavior of the tumor
  • Stage of the Cancer
  • Side effects vs. medical benefit vs. expectations

Will my dog have to go to a specialist?

In most cases, your veterinarian and your dog's oncologist will work together to provide the best care for your pet with neoplasia. Oncology is a growing specialty area of veterinary care. Oncologists are veterinarians who have obtained additional training beyond veterinary school and are certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) in oncology.

What are treatment options for dogs with cancer?

Treatments for dogs with cancer are like human therapies, which can include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Holistic or herbal therapy

There is a lack of consensus as to whether you must choose only one course of treatment, or if multiple treatment options can be combined effectively. Sometimes combining methods work well for dogs with cancer, but that may not always be the case as some treatments may interfere with each other and potentially cause unintended harm. These are important issues to address with the veterinarian at your next appointment. 

Make an appointment today if you suspect your dog might have cancer.

If you suspect dog cancer, whether finding a bump or witnessing behavioral symptoms, please contact us immediately to schedule an appointment.  We are here to help ease your dog's pain and suffering and eliminate cancer through the best veterinary care available.

Creekside Animal Hospital is proud to be an active member of our community and to serve as your veterinarian in The Woodlands, Tomball, Spring, Conroe, and surrounding areas.

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