Cancer is the deadliest disease in dogs age 10 and older. There have been more incidents of dog cancer in recent years. However, many believe that this is because dogs are living longer – long enough to develop cancer. Some breeds are also more susceptible to cancer.
The symptoms of cancer in dogs are the same symptoms found in humans. Abnormal bleeding, limping and swelling are common signs, as are bumps and wounds that don’t heal. However, cancer may occur without any of these signs being present at first. Therefore, if you notice any changes in the behavior or appearance of your dog, have a vet take a look immediately.
Types of cancer
A dog can develop cancer in virtually any part of his body. The most common types of cancers include the following:
Bladder cancer – Transitional cell carcinoma is the most common type of bladder cancer. This malignant tumor goes deep into the bladder wall. The neck of the bladder – where the kidneys dump urine – is typically affected, causing urinary problems. This type of bladder cancer often spreads to the liver and lungs. Because it usually is not diagnosed until it reaches the advanced stages, the prognosis is poor.
Bone cancer – Osteosarcoma (OSA) is the most common form of bone cancer. It can affect any bone, but it is most common in the knees, shoulders and wrists. It develops deep down and progresses until the bone is destroyed. The bone becomes tumorous bone, which is very fragile. OSA is aggressive, with many cases already spreading to other organs by the time it is diagnosed.
Skin cancer – The most common types of cancer are melanoma, squamous cell and mast cell. These tumors account for one-third of all tumors. Skin cancer can be found on the skin’s surface or under the skin. Sun exposure is the most common cause of skin cancer, making light-haired dogs at risk.
Lung cancer – Lung tumors are very rare, accounting for less than 1% of all dog cancers. However, the number of cases is increasing. For the most part, lung tumors are cancerous. They can sometimes spread to the central nervous system. For tumors that have not spread, surgery to remove the tumor is a viable option. A chronic cough is the first sign of this disease. Lung cancer is typically caused by a DNA mutation, although environment, such as living in a polluted area or in a home with owners who smoke, may be a contributor.
Lymphoma – Lymphoma affects the lymphoid system and is considered one of the most common cancers in dogs, accounting for up to 20% of dog cancer cases. Lymphoma is very aggressive and can attack the skin, spleen, liver and gastrointestinal tract. Swollen glands in the neck and shoulders are the most common sign. Chemotherapy is typically used to treat this disease.
Hemangiosarcoma – This refers to a tumor in the blood vessel cells. These tumors are often filled with blood, making a rupture very serious. These tumors commonly form in the spleen or liver, but can occur anywhere in the body. They spread quickly and sometimes affect the brain, heart, lungs, liver and bones. In some cases, hemangiosarcomas can form on the skin.
Mammary carcinoma – Mammary tumors can be small and simple or large and aggressive. Half of mammary tumors are benign and the other 50% are malignant. They are most often found in middle-aged female dogs that are not spayed. In some rare instances, male dogs may get mammary tumors. Mammary tumors in male dogs usually spread quickly and have a poor prognosis.
Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to various types of cancers. Because many spread quickly, it is important to keep an eye out for any changes in your dog. Early detection is key to helping your dog live as long of a life as possible.
Dog Cancer Treatment
Although receiving a diagnosis of cancer in your furry friend can be devastating, there are several options. Cancer does not automatically mean a death sentence. Often, tumors can be successfully removed through surgery, and the dog is essentially cured. In addition, the earlier cancer is caught, the better the chance of survival.
The options for cancer treatment are essentially the same for dogs as they are for humans. Depending on your dog’s type of cancer, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy will likely be one of the options. Surgery is the most effective way to remove a tumor, but depending on its location, this is not always a viable option.
Surgery involves putting the dog under anesthesia to remove the tumor from his body. Before surgery can be performed, your dog must undergo a battery of tests to ensure he is healthy enough to undergo surgery. If the tumor is especially large, chemotherapy or radiation may be performed first in order to shrink the tumor to a more manageable size. Although surgery is the most effective way to cure the cancer, as with any type of surgery, there are risks involved. In addition, it can be costly.
Radiation therapy uses high levels of energy to kill cancer cells. It is often used for localized cancers that have not spread but cannot be surgically removed. Bone cancer, nasal tumors, lymphoma, soft-tissue sarcomas and brain tumors can be effectively treated with radiation. It comes with a variety of possible side effects, including burns, inflammation, dry eyes, bad breath, eating problems and cataracts. Radiation is not as widely available as chemotherapy. In addition, it can be expensive, costing several thousand dollars or more.
Chemotherapy is a common option for treating cancers that cannot be surgically removed. It involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. However, these drugs can also attack healthy cells and cause serious side effects, such as diarrhea, vomiting and hair loss. In many cases, chemotherapy can cure cancer. At the very least, it is proven to control the spread of tumors and alleviate the symptoms of cancer.
Because these conventional treatments can be costly and come with serious side effects, many dog owners try non-conventional treatments. Alternative treatments focus on food and supplements as ways to control the cancer without affecting the dog’s immune system. Many dog owners who choose alternative treatment over conventional treatments claim their dogs live several years longer than expected – at a fraction of the cost of chemotherapy, surgery and the like.
Going this route involves careful observation of the dog’s food intake. Just the right amounts of fats are needed. Meat, preferable organic meat, should be provided. Carbohydrates feed the cancer cells, so providing your dog with green vegetables is a good way to prevent cancer cells from spreading.
Many dog owners make homemade dog food in order to ensure that their dogs receive the right nutrients in order to treat the cancer. There are many recipes out there, but the best ones for cancer incorporate vegetables, meat, eggs, apples, yogurt and garlic. Dog nutrition has more facts on what your god needs.
Vitamins and herbs are also essential. Omega 3 fatty acids and flaxseed oil are proven to reduce inflammation and shrink tumor cells. Echinacea and astragulus boost the immune system to keep your dog healthy while fighting the cancer. Shark cartilage and milk thistle are supplements that may also be beneficial to your dog. However, it is advised to never give your dog vitamins and supplements without checking with the vet first.