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10 Early Warning Signs of Cancer in Dogs

Published on September 11, 2019.
Last Updated November 2, 2022.
10 Early Warning Signs of Cancer in Dogs

The 10 Early Warning Signs of Cancer in Dogs

Did you know that dogs over the age of 10 have a 50% chance of getting cancer? Even though the risk increases with age, cancer does not discriminate and it is important to know how to check your dog for warning signs.

At SASH, The Small Animal Specialist Hospital, we want to help educate Australians just like you about the main warning signs of cancer in dogs. After all, identifying these early could help save your dog’s life. Our cancer specialists (Oncologists) have decades of experience and want to share this knowledge with you.

Signs of Cancer in Dogs Infographic

Video – The 10 Steps that Could Save Your Dog’s Life

What are the 10 Warning Signs of Cancer in Dogs?

1. Lumps and bumps underneath your pet’s skin

You can gently run your hands across your dog’s skin like this, feeling for abnormal lumps and bumps beneath the skin. Unfortunately, to the touch, you can’t tell if a lump is cancerous or not, so it’s best to have it tested by a vet.

Lumps can form on any part of your dog’s body, including between the toes, so it’s great if you can train your dog to be able to look at it’s feet.

2. Abnormal odours from the mouth, ears, or other parts of your dog’s body

If you notice an unusual smell coming from your dog’s mouth or ears, this is a warning sign of cancer in dogs. They may need a dental or have an ear infection. Tumours in the mouth can result in a bad smell too.

3. Non-healing wounds or sores

Persistent, non-healing wounds or sores can be a sign that your dog’s immune system isn’t functioning properly, or is busy combating another infection. Cancers can also look like non-healing sores.

4. Loss of appetite or weight loss

Loss of appetite or rapid weight loss is a sign that something isn’t right with your dog.

Sometimes this can relate to dental or other medical issues, and in other instances, it’s an indication of something more serious – particularly if it’s out of character for your dog, or is also combined with other warning signs of cancer in dogs.

5. Coughing or difficult breathing

If your dog has had a persistent cough for longer than a couple of days, or has started to display breathing difficulties, this can indicate more serious health issues that need to be investigated.

Dogs don’t really get colds and coughs like humans, so this could be a sign of cancer in dogs.

6. Increased drinking or frequency of urinating

Increased drinking or urinating can be a warning sign for certain types of cancer in dogs, as well as other metabolic illnesses.

If your dog has started to go outside multiple times in an evening, it’s time to get this checked.

7. Difficulty in swallowing

If your dog is having difficulty in swallowing then this may be a potential warning sign of throat and neck cancers. This is something you should be paying attention to.

8. Changes in bathroom habits

If your dog is starting to display trouble when urinating or is struggling or straining when defecating it could be an infection or a sign of cancer in dogs.

9. Evidence of pain

Some cancers, in particular bone cancer, show themselves through your dog presenting signs of pain or discomfort such as limping and lameness.

If your dog is showing reluctance to do physical acts that were previously, it’s time for a check up – arthritis is also common in older dogs, and there are ways we can make them more comfortable.

10. Lower energy levels

If you dog is lethargic, and isn’t showing enthusiasm for its usual favourite activities, then you should be alert and have your pet checked.

Lower energy levels can be a sign of different ailments in older pets, many of which can be treated, such as heart disease and cancer.

What Do I Do if My Dog Shows Signs of Cancer?

If you find signs of cancer your dog, SASH or your local vet, will be able to conduct a more thorough assessment to give you clarity about what is going on with your pet. Depending on the location and type of cancer, you may be referred to an Internal Medicine Specialist, a Surgery Specialist, or a Dermatology Specialist.

If cancer is confirmed and diagnosed, you will then be referred to one or more Oncology Specialists at the SASH Animal Cancer Centre. The Animal Cancer Centre offers cutting-edge cancer treatments for pets. Treatment options could include surgery, radiation treatment, chemotherapy, or a combination of the three. Each cancer treatment plan will be tailored specifically to the pet, taking into the wishes of the family.

What Results Can I Expect From Cancer Treatment?

Multiple factors will affect the results and outcomes from cancer treatment for pets. These include the type and stage of the cancer, and a number of individual factors of the pet. The good news is that outcomes have improved dramatically in the last few years. Thanks to the rapidly advancing technology adopted my industry leading hospitals, such as SASH, it is possible to significantly extend the length of life, quality of life, or even cure some cancers. These details will be discussed with you during a consult with one of our Oncology Specialists.

If you have concerns about signs of cancer in your dog, please click the contact button below to book an appointment.


About the Author

Bec Moss

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SASH is home to some of Australia’s leading specialists and veterinary experts. If you have any concerns about your pet, please get in touch with us.

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The purpose of this valuable resource is to act as a practical guide to assist general practitioners to diagnose cancer earlier, provide more accurate information to clients.

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