November is National Canine Cancer Awareness Month. We have compiled information from three different websites into one article to give you some basic information about canine cancer. We will list the six most common canine cancer types, information about some of the treatment options and videos showing information about cancer in general and how cancer develops. It is our goal to give you basic information that may help you make educated decisions for your pet.
6 most common canine cancers
Learning your dog has cancer is a frightening experience, but according to the National Canine Cancer Foundation (NCCF), it is a diagnosis one out of every three dogs will receive during their lifetime. The good news is, about half of all canine cancers are treatable if they are caught early and several promising research studies are currently being conducted to help find a cure.
Cancer comes in many forms, including carcinoma, sarcoma, melanoma, lymphoma, and leukemia, and can occur at any age in both mixed breeds and purebreds. Listed below are the most common types of cancer affecting dogs and the signs to look for at home.
Lymphoma: Lymphoma occurs in cells in the lymph nodes or bone marrow and is most commonly diagnosed in dogs between the ages of 6 and 9 years old. Lymphoma affects the dog’s immune system and can spread rapidly if left untreated. It is classified in five progressive stages and treatment options vary depending on the stage. The first sign of lymphoma is typically a painless, swollen lymph node in the neck or behind the knees.
Hemangiosarcoma: Hemangiosarcoma is a malignant cancer of the blood vessels. It is more common in dogs than any other species. Hemangiosarcoma is commonly diagnosed in the spleen, liver, and heart, but can travel to any organ or occur just under the skin. Because there are no distinct early warning signs for hemangiosarcoma, many dogs are not diagnosed until the disease has reached its advanced stages. It is often seen in German shepherd dogs, golden retrievers, and other large breeds.
Mast cell tumors: Mast cell tumors are an extremely common form of cancer in older dogs and mixed breeds, as well as boxers, Boston terriers, Labrador retrievers, beagles, and schnauzers. Mast cells are found in the skin and other tissues, like the intestines or respiratory tract. They contain large amounts of histamines and enzymes that protect the body, but when tumors develop, that protection turns against the immune system. The first sign of a mast cell tumor is usually a lesion on the skin. Some mast cell tumors can also be uncomfortable and cause agitation.
Melanoma: Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can be found in the nail beds, footpads, and eyes, but the vast majority of melanoma tumors start in the mouth or around the lips. Melanoma tumors are highly aggressive, growing deep into the skin to invade vital organs. The first sign of melanoma might appear as a swollen paw, an eye that drains, or a sore in or near the mouth.
Osteosarcoma: Osteosarcoma is cancer of the bone. Approximately 85 percent of osteosarcoma tumors are malignant, and grow very quickly. Osteosarcoma commonly affects large breeds between the ages of 4 and 7 years old, including Great Danes, Irish setters, Doberman pinschers, Rottweilers, German shepherd dogs, and golden retrievers. While osteosarcoma can occur in any bone, it most commonly affects the limbs. Initial signs of osteosarcoma may include swelling and lameness.
Mammary cancer: According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS), mammary tumors are more common in female dogs that are either not spayed or were spayed after 2 years of age. About 50 percent of all mammary tumors are malignant and have metastasized, or spread to other areas of the body, by the time they are surgically removed. Signs of mammary cancer are often overlooked because the tumors appear as a small nodule on or around the dog’s nipple; however, this type of cancer can also present itself as a painful tumor around the nipple.
[su_box title=”Early Warning Signs of Cancer” style=”soft” box_color=”#5d8d61″ radius=”4″]
- Abnormal swelling
- A sore that does not heal
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Bleeding or discharge from any opening on the body
- Unpleasant or unusual odor
- Difficulty eating or swallowing
- Loss of energy
- Ongoing lameness or stiffness
- Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating
*Information from the National Canine Cancer Foundation (NCCF)
Treating Canine Cancer
Most treatment plans for canine tumors involve surgical removal of the tumor. Depending on the tumor type and location, your veterinarian may recommend adding other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy drugs work by damaging rapidly dividing cancer cells while sparing normal cells. Because of this, normal tissues that also rapidly divide, such as those found in the intestine, bone marrow, and hair, can be transiently affected by chemotherapy. Many owners hesitate to pursue chemotherapy in their pets based on their knowledge of side effects in human cancer patients. It is important to remember that chemotherapy protocols are very different for dogs. Veterinary oncologists have a different goal, which is to provide a good quality of life with minimal side effects. For this reason the doses of chemotherapy are lower in dogs than in people, and side effects are much less common. Should side effects occur, the drug doses are lowered for future treatments.
More Information About Canine Cancer
Despite every effort, pet cancer rates continue to rise. TheTruthAboutCancer.com asked WHY… The video and link below are from TheTruthAboutCancer.com. They have a 5 part mini-series which is all available on their website.
Visit https://thetruthaboutcancer.com/cancer-in-dogs-and-cats/ for their article on canine and feline cancer, how it develops and their recommendations for treatments.