A dog gets a lump checked by the veterinarian. His owner noticed a strange mass and decided to have it looked at for evaluation. Early detection is essential

Early Warning Signs of Cancer

There are many early warning signs of cancer in dogs and cats. Some of them can be very vague such as vomiting and diarrhea, and others can be self-explanatory, such as large lumps on the body that are easily observed and felt.

Cancer is more common in older dogs and cats, but we must remember that even young dogs and cats can develop cancer.

As I mentioned above, any noticeable lumps or bumps on the body, head, or legs could potentially be a cancerous tumor. Hard nodes that are well-attached to underlying tissues are more likely to be cancerous. Also, very small skin lesions can turn out to be cancerous.

Lymph nodes are those small bean-shaped organs found throughout the body and are typically difficult to find. If you ever find a swollen lump by either side of the jaw near the neck, in the armpits, in the groin area, or on the rear legs behind the knee, they could be swollen lymph nodes. Cancer of the lymph nodes is the most common cancer in young dogs and cats.

Physical Symptoms of Cancer in Dogs

  • Abdominal distension can mean many things, but in older dogs, it can often indicate a large cancerous mass on one of the abdominal organs.
  • Coughing, sneezing, vomiting, and diarrhea are common signs that often indicate minor issues such as infections, allergies, and stomach upset. Still, they can sometimes be an indication of cancer as well. Coughing with blood can indicate that cancer may grow in the throat or chest. Sneezing blood (especially from only one nostril) can suggest that cancer may develop in the nose.
  • A bulging of one eye can indicate glaucoma due to eye cancer which is relatively common in dogs and cats.
  • Seizures in an elderly dog or cat with no prior history of seizures could indicate that they may have a brain tumor.
  • If your pet has not been spayed or neutered, some forms of cancer are common in these dogs and cats. A female dog that has not been spayed or was spayed after her fourth heat cycle (around the 3rd birthday) has an increased risk of developing mammary tumors. Dogs that have not been spayed also risk developing cancer of the uterus or the ovaries.
  • Male dogs that have not been neutered (castrated) can develop testicular cancer. Any intact male dog that has testicles that are uneven in size, with the larger ones hard and irregular, is a strong suspect for testicular cancer.
  • Finally, weight loss without any other signs of illness is a significant finding and can indicate cancer. If your pet is happy, eating and drinking but is losing weight, something abnormal is going on, and your pet needs to be examined.

The Ten Primary Cancer Warnings to Lookout For

When it comes to our beloved furry friends, we want nothing more than for them to enjoy long and healthy lives by our side. As pet parents, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs that may indicate your animal is sick or in pain. Though every pet is different, and therefore may exhibit different symptoms when something is wrong, there are a few primary tell-tale signs that warrant a trip to the vet.

  • Lumps and Bumps
  • Skin Lesions
  • Coughing, Sneezing, Vomiting, or Diarrhea (with or without blood)
  • Seizures 
  • Unexplained Weight Loss
  • Abdominal Distention
  • Enlarged Lymph Nodes
  • Mammary Tumors
  • Vaginal Discharge
  • Testicular Irregularities
An older dog has not had an appetite for a few days. Decreased desire to eat is one of the early signs of cancer in dogs. Read here for more details.

One Last Thing to Keep in Mind

All of these signs can be an indication of cancer, but they can also be an indication of much simpler problems. When you first observe a problem with your pet, the initial step is to call your veterinarian and schedule an exam. Don’t wait!

Cancer is, unfortunately, fairly common in dogs, but the good news is that there are treatments available that can improve your dog’s quality of life. The key is to catch cancer early. Keep an eye out for these early signs of dog cancer and if you notice any changes in your pup’s health, make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately.

Commonly Asked Questions About Dog Cancer 

Are There Ways To Prevent My Dog From Getting Cancer? 

Early detection is critical. Like humans, the earlier doctors diagnose, the better the chance a treatment plan can begin working. Also, data suggests that the earlier you spay/neuter, you can delay or reduce a cancer diagnosis. Keeping your home smoke-free reduces environmental toxins known to cause cancer. 

What Cancer Treatments Are Available for My Dog? 

The first FDA-approved cancer drug for dogs was released in 2009. But we still use some human medicines, and more are becoming available to treat our furry friends too!

Are There Certain Breeds That Tend to Have Cancer More Than Others? 

Absolutely, particular dog breeds are known to have a specific type of cancer, and certain breeds are prone to receive a cancer diagnosis. Westies, beagles, golden retrievers, boxers, Burmese mountain dogs, Scotties, and rottweilers are some breeds affected by cancer. 

How Does a Vet Diagnose Cancer in Dogs? 

There are several ways a doctor can see if your dog has cancer. Imaging is a great way to get an accurate picture of what’s happening inside the body. MRIs are especially helpful for our furry friends with brain tumors; blood tests can also reveal cancer. 

How Much Can I Plan to Spend on Cancer Treatment for my Dog? 

The cost of treatment can vary across the country. We recommend meeting with a veterinarian oncologist (usually a few hundred dollars) to formulate a plan of action for your dog’s cancer diagnosis. Certain types of treatment can cost a few hundred dollars, and others can cost upwards of $15,000 or more. Remember, you can explore all the options available to you and make an informed decision based on your pet’s needs. 


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