Cancer in Dogs

Life With Dogs is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.

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.

See full size image

52 thoughts on “Cancer in Dogs”

  1. Has anyone ever heard of a way to remove a mass without putting them under? My girl has congestive heart failure with a good sized murmur. She`s been doing well with medication, but they can`t put her under that way. This mass has suddenly started growing like crazy. I would really wish it could be removed without killing her

    Reply
    • That’s what I am wondering (local), but her current vet isn’t really helping. I also read about a pill since I posted this that shows promise. I don’t know if it would be too harsh for her, but if I can find a vet willing to discuss one of those options I am sure willing to try. The heart disease has never really slowed her down a whole lot, but this thing seems to be kicking her butt. It’s growing at an alarming rate. It started off a tiny little thing, which she has had for quite some time. About 3 weeks ago it started to grow. Now, it is the size of an average orange. You can almost see it grow daily. I love her, and if I thought it was painful or was making her sick I know I would have to make a decision. It only seems to sap her energy, and look scary as heck. Do you know if the pill would be too harsh for a small dog with heart disease?

      Thank you so much for responding by the way. What a wonderful addition you are to this page :).

      Reply
      • She has been on pills for her heart for two years, that do keep it mostly under control. I was wondering if the cancer pill was safe for a dog with a heart condition.

        I’m still trying on the vet issue. I had the perfect vet for a bunch of years. I actually ran into her in a store the day before yesterday and almost cried for missing her. She retired. Since then, I haven’t had much luck. I have tried a few, and will continue to, but good ones are a rare breed here. I wish my old one had had the presence of mind to clone herself lol. She had the “never say die” attitude mixed with dogged determination to keep herself up on anything and everything that was available to help our babies. I need another one of her.

        Reply
      • Got an appointment for her for today at the University, but sadly, she passed away on Saturday and never made it :(. Can’t believe she’s gone.

        Reply
      • Thank you, but we really were the ones that were blessed. She was such a fun girl. I really wanted to fix this for her, but didn’t get that chance :(,

        Reply
  2. Me too guys! it is ao exciting to learn about all the advancements in cancer care and cures, until your own pet is affected, then it just sucks again :/

    Reply
  3. Tupac sounds wonderful. Isn’t it exhausting to make such huge life decisions for someone? Sounds like you did what was best for him at every turn and in doing so, gave him the best possible walk through such an awful disease in such a way that he never needed to know how awful it truly was. I am so sorry you had to say goodbye to him.

    Reply
  4. I can relate, Jennifer. We used a veterinary oncolgist who was in a veterinary specialists group and the cancer treatment wing was always full. I shared their grief with many a doggie parent who was losing the fight and they shared mine with me. Like Tupac, Rocky let us know it was time. There is nothing anyone can say or do to make that choice and the aftermath any easier. We went right out, the next day and got a rescued Rattie at the local SPCA shelter. We had a dog-sized hole in the house that needed filling. She and her later adopted “brother” have made the last 9 months bearable.

    Reply
  5. By chronic inflammation, do you mean skin issues? Rocky, our deceased doggiekid, had terrible skin problems and Dolly takes Zyrtec daily for hers. It seems that skin problems and allergies are common in Rat Terriers and can have a bearing on the development of MCT. So far, we have managed to avoid prednisone and Atopica in treating Dolly’s problems. Rocky took both and just got heavier and his immune system was shot. Dickson, our male Rattie has minor inflammation from time to time and benadryl always helps.

    Reply
  6. One other question. I have heard the debate about grain-free vs. regular dog food as a help against cancer. I feed my dogs grain-free for that reason, but also because I notice that my female’s skin issues aren’t as bad with the grain-free kibble, and believe me, it is hard to find a good, grain-free, weight loss food that has all the nutrients she needs. Has there been any further research into that theory?

    Reply
  7. PupFan- so sorry about your friends beagle. I had cocker that was diagnosed with lymphosarchoma(sp?) when he was only 3.5 years old. We did everything to save him- chemo, supplements, diet and even chiropractic (although that was more to relieve the side effects from the chemo). He lived another 14 months and had a good life until the last few weeks. They think it went to his brain- he was having seizures and was “out of it” so we made the decision to end his pain. If I had it to do over I don’t know what I would do. It is one of the hardest thinks in life- to see your baby suffer. Urrgh..cancer sucks. 🙁

    Reply

Leave a Comment