10 Signs of Cancer in Dogs


Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling, board-certified surgeon in Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. His website is www.DrPhilZeltzman.com.

“I just can’t believe we couldn’t tell Missy had cancer,” said my teary-eyed client. “There were no warning signs,” she added, as we discussed the biopsy results after removing a cancerous mass in the intestine.

It is notoriously difficult to detect cancer early in pets. Let’s get rid of a common myth: in many cases, cancer cannot be detected on blood work.

However, there are 10 things you can look for, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Veterinary Cancer Society. Even if the condition turns out not to be cancer, these signs may be able to detect another medical condition that needs veterinary attention. Also, it is critical to remember that a pet can be very sick “inside," without showing any of the signs “outside” (as in Missy’s case), which is why I recommend regular, veterinary checkups, ideally every 6 months. Early detection is key when dealing with cancer, so learn to spot the signs I discuss here:

1. Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
The most obvious sign is a mass (or bump, or lump) that keeps growing under the skin. Any surgeon will recommend that you don’t just “watch it,” but have it removed AND biopsied. If the mass turns out to be benign, that’s great. If it is malignant or cancerous, then at least we know and can discuss what to do next.

2. Sores that do not heal
These sores are typically skin wounds that don’t seem to heal despite antibiotics by mouth or an ointment applied locally. This also applies to no-healing wounds near a nail.

3. Weight loss
This means unexplained weight loss that can't be explained by a weight-loss diet. Common causes could include a tumor along the intestine, as in Missy’s case.

4. Loss of appetite
Similarly, a mass pushing along the intestines may make your dog feel bad. One of the first things a pet will then do, is stop eating.

5. Difficulty eating or swallowing
A lump in the neck could be putting pressure on the esophagus (the tube between the mouth and the stomach).

6. Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
Although bleeding from the nose does not necessarily mean cancer, is certainly a common sign of cancer of the nose.

7. Offensive odor
I remember a sweet Bulldog we recently treated. She had a large mass near her anus. Biopsies showed that it was cancer. The odor stemmed from multiple draining tracts from which pus came out. A culture showed that 4 different bacteria were growing in there!

8. Reluctance to exercise or loss of stamina
We recently saw a 9-year-old Rottweiler who had a tumor on the heart. Because of the bleeding and the pressure on the heart, he certainly did have difficulty exercising.

9. Persistent lameness or stiffness
We see lame pets every single day, but luckily they rarely have cancer! However, bone cancer can cause pain and lameness, along with swelling along the leg.

10. Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating
This could be due to a mass putting pressure on the respiratory system (wind pipe, lung), urinary system (bladder, urethra) or digestive system (rectum, anus).

Again, early detection is paramount. While there is no reason to be paranoid, stay informed, keep your eyes open, pet your dog all over and often, and see your family veterinarian regularly for checkups. Whether to detect cancer or any other condition, these are pretty safe recommendations to keep your pet happy and healthy for a long time!

Dr. Phil Zeltzman, DVM , DACVS, CVJ, is a mobile, board-certified surgeon near Allentown, PA. Visit his website at www.DrPhilZeltzman.com.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


10 Signs of Cancer in Dogs

Many cancer symptoms are subtle and commonly go unnoticed until cancer is in its later stages. And, every cancer is different in how it enters your dog’s life. We have compiled ten of the most common signs of cancer in dogs below.

Sign #1: Weight Loss in Dogs

Weight loss is the number one sign of cancer in dogs. You may notice a decrease in your dog’s appetite. There are some dogs who may continue to lose weight even if they are eating their normal amount of food each day. If you notice your dog losing weight whether slowly or quickly a veterinarian must be contacted to determine the cause.

Sign #2: Collapsing on the Floor

If your dog collapses onto the floor or ground, you must contact your veterinarian immediately. This is a common sign of cancer according to Jake Zaiel, DVM, from Malta Animal Hospital in New York State. Not only is collapsing a sign lethargy and weakness are also common signs of cancer.

Sign #3: Extreme Coughing

If your dog coughs once or twice, don’t panic. If your dog coughs continuously for days on end, this is when you should begin to worry. This is one of the first signs of lung cancer.

Sign #4: Nosebleeds

Nosebleeds aren’t ever a good, normal sign for a dog (especially if your dog is older). With older dogs, there’s a good possibility this could indicate cancer in the nose. With young dogs, there could be a foreign object in their nose as they are less likely to develop nasal cancer than older dogs.

Sign #5: Seizures

Seizures are a sign to watch for. Seizures can be a sign of brain tumors and are typically found in senior dogs.

Sign #6: Lumps and Bumps

Every single lump and bump should be checked by a veterinarian. Dr. Susan Ettinger, writer of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, always says “don’t wait, aspirate.” Lumps and bumps could be noncancerous, but if they are cancerous then you’re more likely to catch it early and fight sooner.

Sign #7: Pain and Discomfort

Pain and Discomfort is a common sign of cancer in dogs. Your dog’s instincts tell her to prevent her from showing any type of pain. If she’s showing any type of pain, call your veterinarian immediately and explain the type of pain or discomfort she is feeling.

Sign #8: Difficulty Swallowing

If your dog has a lump in the neck, she might not be able to swallow her food and that could be leading to ‘lack of appetite.’ You may not be able to feel a lump in her neck, but it could be putting pressure on the esophagus.

Sign #9: Difficulty Breathing

If there is a mass placing pressure on your dog’s respiratory system, this could result in difficulty breathing. You may notice him gasping for air or experiencing sudden shortness of breath.

Sign #10: Discharge from the Nose or Eyes

If you’re noticing discharge from your dog’s nose and/or eyes, this could be an early sign of a facial tumor or an eye tumor.

Be sure to consult your veterinarian should you have any concerns or suspect something might be wrong. And don’t forget PetFirst Pet Insurance is here to help with the exams and treatments related to these symptoms. Purchasing a policy early will ensure that you are covered for any future illness or accident. Get a quote today.

Guest Blogger: Amber L. Drake


Vet Shares 10 Critical Warning Signs Of Cancer in Dogs

Cancer is an ugly word not only for humans but especially for our pets. It can’t be prevented, but education is essential.

If you know the signs and symptoms of the disease, cancer could be diagnosed and treated quicker prolonging your dog’s life.

Cancer can metastasize faster in dogs than in humans. Taking your dog for their annual check-up is great, but waiting a year between visits if cancer is involved could be deadly for your pet. The saying “it’s better to be safe than sorry” applies well here.

There might not be anything wrong, but to give yourself that reassurance and your pet a clean bill of health, get them to the vet, ASAP.

As in humans, cancer in dogs doesn’t discriminate your pet could be a young pup, an adult or senior. So how can you detect cancer on your own? Dr. Kelly Ryan, DVM at the Animal Medical Center of Mid-America and Humane Society of Missouri, uses these ten warning signs. If you notice any of these in your dog, get them to the vet immediately.

1. Unusual odors – “Dog breath” is common but if the scent is more foul than usual, your dog could have a tumor. The smell can come from the dog’s mouth, nose or rectal area.

2. Bumps or lumps on, or under the skin – Feel beneath your dog’s fur monthly. This is easy to do while grooming or bathing them.

Don’t forget to feel vulnerable areas such as behind the ears and the face. These growths can proliferate. Don’t ignore any new masses, especially those that bleed or where there is discharge. Get your dog to the vet immediately in those instances where the mass has grown or is leaking.

3. Unusual weight loss – Sudden loss of weight in your pet is concerning. If they’re on a diet, they will naturally lose weight, but if not and they’re dropping pounds, you should take them in to be examined.

4. Changes in appetite – This leads us to the fourth warning sign: You know your dog’s eating habits. You know what they eat, how much and how often. You also are aware of your pet’s favorite foods and treats. There could be a problem with your dog’s health if their appetite diminishes. It might not be cancer, but your pet could still suffer from an illness. Better to take Bingo to the vet if you aren’t certain why he isn’t eating regularly.

5. Lethargy – Some dogs are known for being lazy. Just as with your pet’s eating habits, you are the perfect judge to determine whether your dog is simply idle or sick.

Does your pet ignore playtime more than usual? Does your dog grow exhausted quicker than normal?

6. Respiratory issues – Like humans, dogs can also contract lung cancer. You’ll notice something is wrong when your dog coughs, wheezes, or has shortness of breath after short spurts of exercise. This could be an indicator of cancer.

7. Changes in behavior – Have you noticed your normally mellow dog snapping? Does your pet spend more time away from you than at your side? These could be signs your dog is in pain. Pay close attention to how your pet eats, walks, and plays. If they are limping or you observe other signs like your pet is struggling, get them to the vet.

8. Open sores – When people and animals have open wounds, they must heal properly. In dogs, if these abscesses become infected or don’t heal fully, there could be something more serious going on.

9. Vomiting and Diarrhea – Part of being a good dog owner is interpretting your dog’s behavior and physical state. Just as with us, when dogs are Vomiting and have frequent Diarrhea, there is probably something wrong.

If you see any of these other symptoms accompanying these physical attributes, get your dog to the vet right away: Check their abdomen for bloating or stomach distension, (swelling in the stomach).

10. Pale gums – Your pet’s teeth are just as important as their skin, ears and eyes. Know how your pet’s gums should appear when they’re healthy. Brushing their teeth on a regular basis can alert you to pale gums. This could indicate blood loss, which could mean the presence of cancer.

So, now you know ten easy cancer warning signs to watch out for in your pet we anticipate earlier cancer diagnoses and more dogs who will survive treatment.

Because of your do diligence, they will live out their lives happy and healthy.

We hope you’ll bookmark and share this post with your friends and other dog lovers you might end up saving a canine’s life maybe your own.


It’s every owner’s worst fear - your dog is getting on in years and slowing down. You’ve heard stories or perhaps had other pets that were diagnosed with cancer. Of course, with regular check-ups, your vet will help identify any concerns he or she might have but in the back of your mind, you start to wonder.

Some herding dog breeds, such as German Shepherds and Border Collies, are prone to cancer. In fact, cancer is leading cause of death in Border Collies with 23.6% of them dying from cancer. While German Shepherds are prone to many different types of cancers, they are most commonly afflicted with hemangiosarcoma.

Unfortunately, we can’t prevent our dogs from getting cancer, but we can educate ourselves about early warning signs and just as with humans, early detection is key. Here are 10 warning signs:

Your Dog Seems To Be In Pain
Limping or other evidence of your dog in pain when he or she is active, or if the pain is too great for them to be active, can be indications of cancer of the bone.

Offensive Bodily Odors
Foul odors from any of your dog's orifices and/or body parts may be a cause for concern. Cancers of the mouth, nose, or anal regions can cause your pet to emit offensive odors.

Lumps, Swelling, Bulges, Bumps
Not every lump or bump is necessarily cancerous, but consulting with your vet is the only way to be sure. If the lump is growing or not resolving itself, contact your vet and he or she will do a biopsy to determine the contents of the bump.

Sluggishness
If your pet has cancer, there is a chance that he or she will suffer from depression and sleep more, become less playful, and be less willing to go for walks. Although lethargy or depression in dogs can set in with a number of different illnesses, it is commonly seen in pets that have cancer.

Changes in Potty Habits
Any changes in your dog's potty habits including difficulty or frequent urinating or defecating, and blood in urine or stools can be potential warning signs that cancer has developed in your pet.

Peculiar Bodily Discharge
Discharges such as blood, pus, vomit, diarrhea, and any other abnormal substance being excreted from your dog body should be checked out by a veterinarian immediately. A bloated or distended stomach could also be a sign of internal discharge.

Sudden Weight Loss
Sudden weight loss in dogs not on a diet can be an indicator of many diseases and illnesses. If coupled with another warning sign of cancer, you should contact your vet right away and inform him or her about your pet's symptoms.

Loss of Appetite
While a lack of appetite in dogs can be a sign of many things, they usually never stop eating fully without a cause. A decrease in appetite can indicate an oral tumor, which would make it painful and difficult for your pet to eat and swallow, or even an intestinal cancer or blockage due to a tumor.

Wounds That Do Not Heal
Lacerations or sores that do not heal within a normal time range on the surface of your dog's body may suggest infection, skin disease and possibly cancer.

Coughing/Difficulty Breathing
Although symptoms of heart and lung disease, coughing and abnormal breathing can also indicate cancer. This symptom will most likely occur if the cancer in your dog's body has metastasized into his or her lungs.

Of course, if your dog just does not seem right, it’s worth taking him/her in for a vet visit. You know your dog best so when something is not right, you will most likely be the first to know. Regular veterinary care will help catch signs of cancer early on when the chances of recovery are most high.

Article By:
Danielle Sullivan
Some Puppy to Love

Photo Credit: Wiki Commons/Ra Boeselbst


Symptoms of lung or heart tumors can include rapid or irregular respiration.

If your dog is drinking or relieving himself more than usual, you should take notice. This behavior could potentially indicate that he has a slow-growing tumor of the hypothalamus in the base of his brain or adrenal gland.


The best way to ensure that you can detect a potential illness early on is to examine your dog each day and note any changes in her behavior. If you do notice any unusual changes, you should contact your veterinarian right away. By reaching out to Pickles's vet immediately, Christina was able to think about treatment options and work toward getting her pup the help he needed.


Watch the video: 5 Signs That Indicate That a Dog Is Going To Die


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