Dog tumors are classified as lumps or inflamed bumps. They can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). Dog tumors that are benign are harmless. They do not cause damage to surrounding tissues and can generally be easily removed through surgery. Malignant tumors, on the other hand, grow quickly and damage surrounding organs. They are often fatal.
Types of cancers
Most cancers are detected during a physical exam. Tumors in the mouth, mammary glands, lymph glands, testicles and perianal area can be found during a thorough inspection. Bone tumors cause swelling and lameness. Internal cancers are also common. These cancers affect the liver, spleen and stomach areas and are often undetected until the tumors have become advanced. They cause diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, weight loss and internal bleeding.
Skin cancers are also common in dogs, especially mast cell tumors. These cause changes to the dog’s skin. Lung cancer is not as common in dogs, but they are still affected by smoke. Tumors in the lungs can spread quickly.
Risk of dog tumors
Dogs are living longer, making them more susceptible to tumors. The chance of developing a tumor increases with age. In fact, half of all dogs 10 years of age or older will develop some type of cancer.
Cancer is also genetic. There are certain breeds that are more likely to develop cancer, such as golden retrievers, Bernese Mountain dogs and boxers.
If you believe your dog may have a tumor, the vet will take a needle and perform a biopsy. When the sample is placed under a microscope, the pathologist can determine if cancer cells are present. Blood work and a urinalysis are commonly done. X-rays and ultrasounds may also be taken to determine if the tumor has spread.
A video of a vet diagnosing a fatty tumor in a dog.
Surgery is the most effective form of treatment for dog tumors. However, it cannot be done in every case. It is best performed on a tumor that has not yet spread. Cryosurgery and electrocautery are two options to remove tumors that appear on the body’s surface. Cryosurgery involves freezing the tumor, while electrocautery burns it.
Radiation is also an option for tumors that have not yet spread. Radiation can help alleviate pain in some dog tumors. A major disadvantage is that radiation requires special equipment that is not available everywhere.
Chemotherapy is used for dog tumors that have begun to spread. Chemotherapy can cure only venereal tumors. For other types of tumors, the main goal is controlling the spread of the tumor. Although low doses are commonly used, the side effects can still be severe.
Although a proper diet may not cure cancer, it can keep it under control. A balanced diet of specific amounts of sugars, carbohydrates and protein can potentially starve cancer cells without harming the healthy cells.
Other things to know about dog tumors
- Dog tumors can cost anywhere from $1,000 to upwards of $15,000 to treat.
- There are no specific causes of dog tumors.
- Not all malignant dog tumors lead to death. The survival rate is above 60 percent.
- Spaying or neutering dogs and keeping their teeth clean are the two most important things you can do to prevent dog tumors.