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May is Pet Cancer Awareness Month

Posted May 21, 2015 in Articles

Facts and Warning Signs of Cancer in Companion Animals
- Carrie Wood, DACVIM (Oncology)

Many cancers that occur in humans can also occur in companion animals, and it is estimated that 1 in 4 dogs will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Because the life cycle of companion pets is accelerated as compared to humans (the old saying of one dog year equals seven human years), their cancers will progress at a more rapid rate than the human counterpart disease, making early detection important for treatment.

Monitoring your pet for warning signs can be critical in the fight against cancer. Your primary care veterinarian is the first line in determining if there is a serious problem. A diagnosis of cancer is frightening, but with the help of a veterinary oncologist, an individualized treatment plan can be developed to relieve pain, eliminate symptoms and provide a good quality of life.

Some symptoms to mention to your vet if you notice them in your pet:

Weight Loss - any type of cancer can affect the absorption of nutrients and cause weight loss.

Swollen lymph nodes - lymph nodes in dogs and cats are located in the same area as in humans. The easiest lymph nodes to feel are under the chin and behind the knee.

Chronic vomiting or diarrhea - similar to weight loss, cancer in the stomach or intestines can cause vomiting or diarrhea that does not respond to treatment.

Cough - a cough that is non-productive, contains blood or persists for longer than 30 days should be checked right away.

Lameness or Limping - a dog that that holds a leg up when walking or that persistently does not want to bear full weight on a leg is showing signs of pain in that leg. A cat may stop jumping up and down from a favorite perch if the landing causes pain. These could be signs for concern.

Abdominal Distention - a sudden bloated appearance to the abdomen can be an indication of a more serious problem.

Difficult or frequent urination - pets that strain to urinate or have frequent blood in the urine without an infection may be at risk for bladder cancer. 

Lumps that change in size - any mass that doubles in size in a short period or increases then decreases periodically should be checked by your Veterinarian.

Bleeding or odor from the mouth - blood in the water dish, dropping food, loose teeth or a strong odor from the mouth may be indicators of a tumor in the mouth. 


Our team is always here to help you if you have questions about visiting a Veterinary Oncologist.  Appointments with Dr. Wood can be made at Southern NH Veterinary Referral and Veterinary Critical Care and Referral.