While there is significantly more research on canine than feline cancers, pets appear to develop cancer similar to people, with dogs getting cancer at almost the same rate as their owners. Pets can develop cancer that affects almost any body part, and may occasionally attack multiple areas. The signs you see in your pet will depend on the tumor’s size, malignancy grade, and the organ or tissue affected.
A neoplastic (i.e., abnormal growth) process is most commonly indicated by the appearance of a lump or bump that is often fast-growing, and if you notice a suspicious growth on your pet, you should contact us for an appointment. We will perform a comprehensive physical exam, and likely take a sample of the mass—usually a fine needle aspirate—to identify the growth. We may also need blood work and X-rays, to stage the disease process.
In addition to suspicious lumps and bumps, a variety of other signs may indicate your pet is affected by cancer. These signs can be vague, and may be clues that your pet has a condition other than cancer, but they still warrant a veterinary visit to Johnson County Animal Clinic. If you notice any of the following cancer warning signals in your pet, contact us for an appointment.
#1: Your pet is bleeding from the mouth, nose, or other orifice
Many neoplastic processes, such as an ulcerated mass, are responsible for unexplained bleeding. Other cancers affect the bone marrow, blood cell counts, and clotting factors. If the pet’s blood does not clot properly, anemia may result.
#2: Abdominal swelling
Malignant abdominal swelling is not the type of swelling caused by too many treats. Tumors in the abdomen can form in, on, or around organs, interfering with function. Some tumors, such as a hemangiosarcoma, can quickly become extremely large, and may rupture, creating free-flowing blood in the abdomen, which can look like a swollen abdomen. Other, non-neoplastic diseases, such as heart failure in older dogs, can also lead to an enlarged abdomen, because of fluid buildup. Typically, if your pet has a swollen abdomen, but the rest of the body is thin or bony, the problem is serious.
#3: Difficulty breathing
Many cancers metastasize to the lungs, although the original tumor may be in a far-away body part. Lung masses can grow to impair lung inflation and deflation, while other growths may press on the trachea, and restrict airflow.
#4: Difficulty eating
Pets routinely suffer from oral tumors. Cats tend to get oral squamous cell carcinomas, particularly if they live in smoking households, because they groom the carcinogens from second-hand smoke off their fur. The cancer-causing ingredients can affect the tongue, which can lead to squamous cell carcinoma. Dogs with darkly pigmented gums and lips often suffer from oral melanomas that, like feline squamous cell carcinomas, can be locally aggressive and invasive. Regardless of tumor type, any growth in the mouth can create problems chewing or swallowing.
#5: Lumps, bumps, or discolored skin
When people think of cancer, they most often think of lumps and discolored skin as key indicators of a neoplastic process. While some cancers can cause masses close under the skin, and may also discolor the area, others create internal growths that cannot be seen on a regular exam.
#6: Non-healing wounds
Some wounds cannot heal, if your pet constantly licks the area, and creates a lick granuloma that often oozes. However, if your pet cannot reach a wound to lick or scratch, yet the wound fails to heal, a neoplastic process may be underfoot.
#7: Persistent diarrhea or vomiting
Cancer can attack your pet’s total-body health and wellness, or may focus on the gastrointestinal tract, leading to vomiting or diarrhea that simply will not resolve, despite treatment. Older cats commonly develop intestinal lymphoma, which is known for causing vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.
#8: Sudden weight changes
If your pet develops cancer, they will likely drop weight rapidly, with or without a change in appetite. The disease will sap nutrition from your pet, particularly one that is an infiltrative, aggressive cancer type.
#9: Unexplained swelling, heat, pain, or lameness
Osteosarcoma development in long-legged dogs is a common cause for swelling, pain, and lameness. While large and giant breeds are most affected, osteosarcoma tumors can infiltrate the long bones in any dog. This cancer often causes excruciating pain while destroying the bone and surrounding soft tissue.
#10: Ulcerated mass
While some masses, such as benign lipomas, will appear as simple growths covered in hair, problematic lumps can be ulcerated, red, and oozing. Mast cell tumors that pop up on the skin are noted for their ulcerated appearance.
Many cancer warning signs in pets can also be seen with other diseases, or organ dysfunction. Regardless of the root cause of your pet’s illness, prompt diagnosis will provide the best prognosis for your beloved companion. With a speedy diagnosis, we can quickly form a treatment protocol to minimize the risk for widespread, systemic disease, so call us immediately, if you notice any of the above warning signs in your pet.