Early diagnosis and treatment of cancer can, in many cases, give pets a good quality of life for months or years to come. Spotting the earliest signs of cancer is essential in order for treatment to begin as soon as possible, but what are the earliest signs of cancer in pets? Our Thornton vets explain.
Watching For Cancer in Dogs
Becoming sick with conditions such as a basic cold can be tough enough on the body, let alone getting the news that it is cancer. Yet, knowing the signs of cancer in pets may help you to spot symptoms of the disease in its very earliest stages, allowing treatment to begin before sooner when it's most effective.
Common Signs Of Cancer in Dogs & Cats
Here, our veterinary team shares some of the signs of cancer commonly seen by pet oncologists in Thornton:
Unusual Swelling & Bumps
Groom your pet regularly and during your grooming sessions take the time to really examine your pet's skin. Are there any lumps, bumps, or swellings that you hadn't noticed before? Remember, cancer can strike any part of the body so don't forget to check your pet's 'armpits' and other creases.
Decreased Energy Levels
If your dog is lethargic and isn’t showing enthusiasm for its usual favorite activities, then you should be alert and have your pet checked.
Lower energy levels can be a sign of different ailments in older pets, many of which can be treated, such as heart disease and cancer.
Sudden Unexplained Weight Loss
Unexplained weight loss is a common sign of many health problems in pets. If your four-legged friend is losing weight but isn't on a diet, it's time to call your local vet oncologist in Thornton.
Loss of Typical Appetite
Of course, this is closely tied to weight loss but it may be a symptom that becomes noticeable before your pet loses a significant amount of weight. If your dog or cat is generally a good eater but is now picking at their food, or ignoring it altogether, there may be a serious health issue involved. Loss of appetite is a symptom common to many health issues in pets and is always worth having investigated.
Recurring Diarrhea or Vomiting
Most pets experience diarrhea and vomiting at some point during their life. In most cases, vomiting and diarrhea are related to minor gastrointestinal issues but if your pet has repeated episodes of vomiting and diarrhea over the course of 24 hours, or if you notice blood in your pet's vomit or stool, it's time to have your four-legged friend examined by a veterinary oncologist as soon as possible.
Unusual or Excessive Foul Odor
Like people, our pets each have a unique scent of their own. If your dog or cat is suddenly exuding a bad odor - whether from their mouth, ears or backend - it could be a sign of a serious health concern such as cancer. Often cancers of the mouth, nose or anus can lead to offensive odors coming from your pet.
Ongoing Pain Causing Lameness
It is certainly true that limping and other signs of limb pain can be associated with less serious conditions such as muscle strains, ligament tears or even injured paw pads, but it's important to note that lameness is also a common sign of serious and aggressive cancers such as bone cancer. If your pet is limping it's always best to err on the side of caution and have your pet examined by a veterinarian or pet oncologist in Thornton as soon as possible.
Difficulty Swallowing or Breathing
Breathing difficulties in dogs and cats can result from a number of conditions including asthma, allergies, contact with toxins and of course cancer. Regardless of why it may be happening, if your pet is having difficulties breathing contact your emergency veterinarian straight away or visit your nearest animal emergency hospital for care.
If your pet is toilet trained but then begins urinating or defecating in the house this can be a sign of an infection or stress, but it could also be a symptom of a number of different cancers including kidney or bowel tumors. If your pet has a single accident there is likely nothing to worry about but repeated accidents should be investigated by your veterinarian or vet oncologist.
How is cancer in dogs diagnosed?
Your oncology veterinarian in Thornton will perform a thorough examination as well as review your dog's medical history. If your veterinarian feels that your pet likely has cancer, the diagnosis will move to the next level.
Several tests may be recommended to help determine the extent of the cancer such as urinalysis, ultrasound, digital X-rays, biopsy, blood tests (blood count, chemistry profile) and tissue aspirates. Other diagnostic tests that may also be recommended include CT, PET or MRI scans, lymph node aspirated, endoscopy, bone marrow aspirate and/or immunologic studies.
Once your veterinarian receives the results of the diagnostic tests they will be better able to understand the nature of the disease in your pet and determine the best treatment options to meet your pet's needs.
What are the treatment options for cancer in dogs?
Because there are so many variables regarding the type of pain your dog may be experiencing and why, there are a host of pain relief medications and strategies pertaining to dog oncology in Thorntonthat your vet may recommend. These can help improve your pet's quality of life. Below are a few common approaches to managing pain in dogs with cancer. It is also important to note that, your oncology veterinarian may recommend a combination of drugs or treatments to address your dog's pain.
Hot & Cold Therapy
Hot and cold therapy involving the application of ice packs to painful areas can be particularly helpful in reducing inflammation. Speak to your vet oncologist in Thornton about whether it is an appropriate approach for your pup.
Acupuncture can offer relief to dogs with cancer that are suffering from mild to moderate pain. If you are interested in acupuncture as a way to relieve your pet's pain, be sure to consult a qualified veterinary acupuncturist.
Topical ointments containing lidocaine, benzocaine, cortisone, or dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) may help to relieve different types of localized pain. Be sure to speak to your vet before applying any topical medications to your dog. Many human medications (even topical medications) can be toxic to pets.
Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
There are a number of effective anti-inflammatory drugs which your vet may prescribe to help relieve your pup's mild to moderate cancer pain, including Metacam, Previcox, Deramaxx and Rimadyl. These medications can impact the liver and kidneys so periodic blood tests will be required to monitor your pet's liver and kidney function while using these medications
Tramadol is a common narcotic prescribed to help manage mild to moderate cancer pain in dogs. This medication is well tolerated by most dogs and can be used in high doses to treat more severe pain, or combined with NSAIDs.
When used alone, neurotransmitter modifiers can be useful in treating chronic low-grade cancer pain in dogs. When used in combination with other pain medications neurotransmitter modifiers can help to relax dogs suffering from cancer. Some of the most common drugs in this category include gabapentin, amantadine and amitriptyline.
What does life with cancer look like for dogs?
While tumors that have spread to other organs are not typically curable, palliation may help to relieve symptoms and potentially prolong life without providing a cure. Tumors with the best chance of being treated or cured are those that have not invaded surrounding tissues.
Only your veterinarian will be able to provide you with a prognosis for your pet. While some cancers can be treated very successfully, other more aggressive cancers such as bone cancer, can move alarmingly fast once symptoms have been detected. Once the veterinary oncology visit is complete and your pet has been diagnosed your vet oncologist will take the time to review your pet's prognosis and provide you with treatment options and potential outcomes.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.