Cancer in Dogs

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Cancer is the most emotionally charged and scientifically complex concept in the human and veterinary medical fields combined.  Cancer is not one single disease.  It is a group of conditions characterized by the mutation and excessive multiplication of cells. Cancer can be as harmless as a slowly growing bump cured with surgical removal or as deadly as a rapidly metastasizing lesion for which there is no treatment.  An almost endless range of cancer types and severities exists between these two extremes.

Why Did This Happen?

In most cases, the underlying cause of cancer is unknown.  On a (somewhat) positive note, more dogs than ever before are living long enough to develop cancer, thanks to great home care and preventative care.

Some cancers have a genetic predisposition.  Overweight dogs and dogs exposed to second-hand smoke and other carcinogens are at a higher risk.

Good nutrition cuts the risk of cancer.  Keeping your dog on the thin side of normal decreases the risk of cancer.  Spaying or neutering decreases, or in some cases eliminates, the risk of certain cancers.

Cancer Sucks.

Cancer itself does not usually hurt, but it can be painful if tumors impinge on nerves or destroy parts of the body that do not “give,” like bone.  More common than sharp pain is nausea or a general sense of “blah.”  Sometimes, no discomfort is felt at all, which is a curse in itself if the cancer is thus unnoticed.

The earlier a disease can be detected, diagnosed and treated, the better the prognosis tends to be.  Cancer becomes life limiting when it steals nutrition needed by the body and crowds out normal tissue and even entire organs, disrupting the body’s normal functions. Cancer unchecked is often fatal.

There is Room for Hope After a Cancer Diagnosis…

Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are the three pillars of cancer treatment. A myriad of other treatment, supportive care and palliative (pain controlling and comfort enhancing) options also exists.

Beating Cancer – The Pet Savers

General practitioners do quite a bit of cancer care, but in many cases, specialists are brought on board, most commonly veterinary oncologists (cancer specialists) and veterinary surgeons.  Cancer care is personally tailored to each patient’s situation by his or her family and veterinary team.

The Medical Holy Grail

The medical community is continually in search for The Cure for Cancer.  In reality, several cures have been discovered for several types of cancers. We are also learning more ways to keep patients comfortable through cancer and increase survival times when a complete cure is not possible. Best of all, by decreasing known cancer risks, in some cases, some cancers can be prevented all together.

Cancer is awful, but…the future is full of promise.

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52 thoughts on “Cancer in Dogs”

  1. Cancer totally sucks! I lost my heart dog to osteosarcoma and my daughters heart dog has osteo now too. It’s a terrible desease that takes them to soon.

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    • Oh Ruth, I am so sorry to hear! Osteosarcoma is one of the cancers with an “extra” dose of meanness in that it can be so painful. I hope that was not the case for your dog and is not so for your daughter’s dog. I would love to hear how it goes.

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  2. I can’t say enough about keeping your dog at a good weight. We had to say goodbye to our Rocky, a 7-year-old Rat Terrier who had Mast Cell Tumor disease which had metastasized this past October. He was 8 lbs overweight. We are now fighting the battle against obesity with our little female, Rattie, Dolly. Our other Rattie, Dickson, seems to be doing well in that department.

    I would like to pass on something that I learned a bit too late. My dogs are all rescues and they were all “fixed” at an advanced age rather than in the first year of life. Their metabolism slows when they are spayed or neutered but their appetites remain the same. Dolly is on a weight reduction kibble and Dickson is on a weight management, senior kibble. Watch the serving sizes and watch the treats.

    I look at Rocky’s picture every day. We fought his MCT with radiation and chemo, but he was one of the unlucky ones. We miss him so much.

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    • I am so sorry to hear about Rocky! Only use those risk factors as precautions for the future, not to play “what if” because that game has no end and will beat you every time! Rocky could have gotten mast cell cancer or another were he super buff too. He was so blessed to have you, as are Dolly and Dickson now!

      Isn’t weight management a pain? And yeah, spayed and neutered pets have slower metabolism than intact pets without those hormones helping with fat burning, so that adds to the challenge! Sounds like you are getting and keeping them in great shape though!

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      • Thank you for that, Shawn. He kept getting tumors, one after another. The initial one was in what was left of his scrotum. They were unable to get good margins on the underside because it was too close to the urethra, so he went through 18 radiation treatments and was starting on Palladia when he had three more tumors show up, one at a time and then it went internal. We took him to the ER vet and his chest was full of blood. He spent the night in an oxygen cage, we transferred the cage to our car the next morning and took him to our vet to say goodbye. He had a good last night thanks to that oxygen.

        We’re working at the weight management thing. We have a vet who is a firm believer in keeping dogs on the svelte side. The good thing is that Dolly is active, agile, runs like a greyhound and can jump almost 5 freet in the air. She is supposed to weigh 17 lbs and she weighs 23.6. That’s down from 25.2. It IS a struggle. She has quite the appetite.’

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  3. Just lost my 11 year old greyhound to intestinal cancer. It is a sad fact that it takes as many companion pets as it does their human counterparts.
    I can already tell I’m going to like having Dr. Finch around. Woof.

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    • Thank you Donelle! You totally made my day!

      I am really sorry to hear about your Greyhound. The pic is of Ebony Dog who just passed away from cancer (hemangiosarcoma we think). She was a Lab Mix, but we always thought she was part Greyhound because she was so beautiful.

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  4. Dr Finch is so right when she says cancer is such an emotionally charged illness. After a valiant 2 and a half year fight we lost our precious basset to cancer 3 months ago. While we were grateful for the gift of time with her (originally prognosis was 6 months- 1 year), it was, and still is such a painful loss for us, and makes me an even greater advocate for canine cancer research! How can we help further this cause?

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    • Thank you for the info Dr.Finch. I have made a donation to their Canine Cancer Campaign in memory of Scout. When she first became ill, we spent 6 weeks taking her back and forth to Texas A&M Veterinary college. Even with all of the “fire power” available there, we all still lived with the realization that until a cure is found, this battle with cancer rages on, for our precious animals, and for us humans. Cancer won this battle, but I will continue to fight this war on behalf of all of our friends!

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  5. I had a beautiful French Mastiff. I got her as a puppy, and took the best of care with her. She was my Angel. She wasn’t eating, and I found a big lump in her throat. She was only 3 and 1/2 years old. When the vet called me, I just dropped to the floor. Crying so hard, I couldn’t even talk to him. He said that she had 3 months tops, and was full of cancer. She didn’t even make it for 3 more months, and lost so much weight, she look awful. I love her so much, and I couldn’t go and kill her. But one morning, when I saw her, I knew it was time to take her. I couldn’t hardly get her into the car. I sat at the vets office, in my car, giving her kisses, and telling her how much that I love her. They carried her in, and she didn’t take her eyes off me. They got her prepped, and let me sit there with her, then the doctor gave her the injection. He told me that she was gone. I sat there and held her for two hours, and cried, my eyes out. When I left there, I didn’t know where I was or where I was going. I felt empty, dead, cancer in our pets is awful. I lost my big baby girl, to cancer. I miss her everyday.

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    • Wow, that is so young, and so fast. SO sad! She was so blessed to have you to walk through that with. I so wish you were not left now with a broken heart.

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  6. An ex of mine had a beautiful Rottweiler. Dakota was his name, and a few months before I met him, when he was nine, he was diagnosed with throat cancer. The vet was able to remove the small tumor, and they thought he was going to be fine.

    A few months after he turned ten, another lump started forming under his jaw. The cancer came back (or wasn’t totally gone. Whichever), and it was spreading far more rapidly than before. The vets gave him a few months to live.

    He made it to eleven before he passed. He was the dog that made me absolutely love dogs and Rottweilers in particular. Dakota was loyal, playful, and obedient to the end, and even when he was in pain, he still wouldn’t let it stop him from greeting everyone at the door, stealing popcorn straight from the bowl, and playing outside with us and the younger dog of the house. I may not love his owner anymore, but darnit, did I love that huge, beautiful dog. I cried for hours when I heard he’d died. It still makes me tear up…

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