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Top 7 Pet Cancer Warning Signs

By Dr. Andrew Jones

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Cancer is the number one cause of death in dogs and cats. Currently 50% of pet mortality is due to cancer, and cancer affects one out of every three dogs. Golden Retrievers now have the highest incidence of cancer among all dog breeds, and the breeds lifespan has now dropped to 10 ½ years, with 60 percent of all golden retrievers dying of cancer.

This article will highlight the top 7 cancer warning signs that you should be aware of; signs which warrant a closer exam, and veterinary visit.

1. Lumps/Masses. Most lumps or masses are non cancerous, such as the common dog benign fatty growths or lipomas. Early warning signs are ones which are are fast growing, palpate as firm, solidly attached and not easily movable under the skin.

2. Weight Loss. Any time there is unexplained sudden weight loss in a dog or cat, I was concerned about cancer. Cancer can speed up your pet’s metabolism, producing the weight loss. Common medical causes include diabetes in pets, hyperthyroid disease in cats. Regularly monitor your pet’s weight, and if weight loss occurs, have a veterinary exam and blood work.

3. Lethargy, low energy. If your pet has cancer, they may be anemic giving them less energy. My own dog died of spleen cancer (hemangiosarcoma), but the first sign was him not having the energy to run with me. Cancer can affect multiple organs, producing the lack of energy and general malaise.

4.Anorexia/ Lack of Appetite. Anorexia has multiple causes, such as organ dysfunction, dental disease, While a lack of appetite in dogs and cats can be an indicator of many things, they never stop eating without a cause. Not necessarily a sign of cancer, a decrease in appetite can indicate an oral tumor, which would make it painful and difficult for your pet to eat and swallow.

5. Difficulty Breathing. Most cases of respiratory distress ( labored breathing) are due to heart disease producing fluid in the lungs. Your pet will be having slow, deep breaths, and you will see the chest move in and out markedly. Cancer though often spreads to the lungs, so this is an important cancer warning sign.

6. Progressive limping/lameness. Osteosarcoma ( bone cancer) is common in medium to large breed dogs, producing swelling at the end of a long bone ( ie the femur on the back leg, radius on the front leg). Intermittent limping is typical of arthritis, but progressive painful lameness warrants an exam for bone cancer.

7. ADR or Ain’t Doing Right. This unusual non medical term applies to those pets who just aren’t themselves, such as with behavior, eating, energy levels. Your pet may have an unusual smell from their mouth, difficultly eating, a wound that won’t heal, a limp that won’t go away, or a unusual swelling under their jaw as seen in lymph node cancer. You know your pet far better than your veterinarian, so if you see dramatic changes, then usually there is a medical condition to explain it. Ensure that your veterinarian checks for cancer, while examining your pet for other diseases that can explain the symptoms.

There are numerous different types of cancer, from lymphosarcoma, to mast cell tumors, to spleen tumors, and there is not one particular sign, but the 7 above signs are some of the most important ones I watched for in veterinary practice. If your dog or cat exhibit them, then I advise a thorough veterinary exam, and potential additional diagnostic tests, to check for more serious underlying disease.

Heal Your Pet At Home!

Best Wishes,

Andrew Jones, DVM

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Topics: Cat Health, Dog Health, Pet health | 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “Top 7 Pet Cancer Warning Signs”


  1. Marlene Says:
    June 28th, 2014 at 6:40 am

    The vet suspected over a year ago that my cat had a type of cancer, but because of her age we decided not to do more tests and treatments. My angel is just over 18 and has always been an indoor cat.

    She lost over half her body weight in less than a year and currently she is going down hill. She vomits more frequently even though I have changed her canned food to accommodate this, takes enzymes and probiotics, but she is drinking more water and is more lethargic.

    I am at a loss as to know what to do, because her quality of life is not good.

    At what point do you decide to euthanise your loving pet? Or do you just let them go along with poor health and let nature take its course.

    Marlene

  2. VeggieNut Says:
    July 7th, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    My cancer kitty is now 16 years old and her squamous cell cancer was found in the back of her mouth in Oct. 2013. The vet started off with Clindamycin and later added Predinsone. The positive results from this treatment were very short lived and soon the drooling and horrible ulceration would be back.
    Then, after her last Prednisone injection/clindamycin treatment started on April 2, 2014 still left her with an ulcerated mouth when it was finished, I tried the molasses/baking soda cancer cure out of pure desperation. After two weeks of this, the ulceration was gone. I added Artemisinin and a triple mushroom blend of Shiitake, Maitake and Reishi, standardized. I’ve been managing her with this since the last part of April, 2014. The cancer is not cured, but so far there’s been no more drooling, no more pawing at her face, no more big mass of inflamed open red ulcers, no more spending all day in her sick bed, no more working her tongue around in her mouth when trying to eat or else just turning away from her food altogether. She can have some red, inflammation in the back of her mouth which varies in severity but at least there’s no huge extensive mass of open sores. I’m also giving her a chewable children’s vitamin, CoQ10, Astaxanthin, Magnesium, MSM, Rehmannia Eight (for her kidneys), fish oil and other supplements which I vary. We’ve passed the eight month mark from when this was found and that’s probably doing pretty good for a 16 yr. old kitty.
    Finding things for her to eat has been a challenge. Both her and my other kitties like soft, almost liquid, scrambled eggs that I thinly spread out on a plate and they just lap it up. It’s easy for my kitty with cancer to eat this and it has nutritional value as well.
    Much info can be found on the internet regarding holistic treatment of this cancer. There are different recipes for the molasses/baking soda cancer cure. The one I used is this: Three parts molasses to one part baking soda (do not use baking powder due to the aluminum in it). Place in a sauce pan and heat on low for about five minutes, stirring briskly. Let cool. This recipe is for people so the dose will have to be scaled down for a cat.
    When cooled, this will be thick and gooey. I put this concentrate in a small food container which I keep in the fridge. I take out a small amount as needed and dilute it down to her size. I just estimate it. There’s been a lot of just playing it by ear for me to do.
    At the age of your kitty, she could have kidney problems. The Rehmannia Eight is used by holistic vets to treat chronic kidney failure in cats. Do research before you try anything. You may come up with something that works better than what I found. Good luck with your kitty!
    What we go through for our furry family members :)))

  3. Maddie Hopper Says:
    March 28th, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Good for you, VeggieNut! I’m about to do the baking soda treatment for our seventeen-year-old kitty who has adenocarcinoma and your taking time to type out your experience gives me something more to go on. Thank you!

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