Early Signs of Cancer?

Cancer can be a silent killer for dogs.

By | Posted: Fri Apr 15 00:00:00 PDT 2005

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Q. My sister's nine-year-old Beagle had to be put to sleep this week. We are all so sad because it was so unexpected. He had been throwing up (not uncommon for a dog who got into everything) and a battery of tests showed he was suffering from lymphoma and it had started to spread to his organs. We are even more upset because the vet told us that this probably wouldn't have been picked up by a routine exam so we have no way of knowing how long he had been sick. Unless it's something obvious like a lump, are there any other signs that might have allowed us to catch this sooner? She has another dog and I have two, and we want to know what to look for to hopefully spare us this kind of heartbreak in the future. Thank you.

Dr. Jon GellerA. I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your sister's dog due to lymphoma. Cancer really is the silent, stalking killer. It leaves very little trace of its existence until it's too late. Blood tests and X-rays usually appear normal, until the disease is very advanced.

Just like with human medicine, new research is needed to develop methods of early detection. Very vigilant dog owners can pick up on early signs of cancer. Remember, cancer usually affects older dogs, but not always. It's the No. 1 cause of death in dogs (in humans the No. 1 cause of death is heart disease).

With lymphoma, your dog's lymph nodes may become enlarged, and you would feel large, marble-like masses under the jaw. You might notice a loss of energy, or a decrease in appetite. All dogs throw up once in a while, but an increase for no apparent reason should be checked out by your vet.

Newer technologies, such as ultrasound and laparoscopy (a noninvasive surgery that allows a veterinary surgeon to look around in the abdomen), have helped with early diagnosis of cancer, but more work is needed. Hopefully, some day blood tests will be developed as an early screening test.

In the meantime, try not to worry about your other dogs. Cancer in general is not considered hereditary (although that is sometimes part of the picture). Enjoy your dogs, and love them until they don't know what to do.

Best,
Jon Geller, DVM

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Eileen - 249708   Port Perry, ON

9/14/2013 5:50:50 AM

Cancer is a very scary disease for both dogs and humans. My daughter just lost her 7 year old Jack Russell to cancer.

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Sherry   Murfreesboro, TN

6/19/2010 8:39:16 PM

I just lost my beautiful basset hound, Samantha, to cancer. She began slowly where she either would not eat in the morning and then did great in the evening. The next thing she was barely eating and would throw up often. After $1340 worth of tests, no help. This went on for almost two months and by the time she passed away, she was only bones and skin. There was no body fat. It was very sad but on the day I had to make the decision to let her go, they brought her to me first and she passed in my arms before anything was done. She chose the time and I was with her. I take comfort in that fact. She would have been 8 years old on September 11. My brother's family has her sister and my sister's family has her half-sister. I am heart broken.

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Sue   Cranston, RI

7/4/2009 7:44:55 PM

If you have a dog diagnosed with Lymphoma, and you can afford to treat your dog, go to a large teaching hospital/vet school and try chemo as an option. I did this for my 6 year old Shih Tzu and we are now 17 months past diagnosis and she is doing great! Chemo is not usually difficult for dogs to tolerate as they don't give the same dose as they do for humans and they can prolong your dog's life and the quality of life. It is well worth it. Don't give up if you get a cancer diagnosis!

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shera   reno, NV

3/8/2009 11:36:29 AM

i just lost my dog cancer an she stage one cancer but the told us they got it all out of her we had put her down on march 5 2009 6:00pm and it hurt me my boyfriend a lot he had her snice she was puppy throw car window

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