How Veterinarians Diagnose & Treat a Dog’s Cancer

 Our South Bay Veterinarians Discuss Cancer in Dogs -

veterinarians in south bayAs our dogs age, their risk of cancer increases. Fortunately, many great advances have been made in treatments for feline and canine cancers in recent years!

Dogs actually get cancer at about the same rate as humans. Cancer is much more common in dogs older than 10. Some sources say that almost half of dogs who live over the age of 10 will develop cancer. However, different breeds are more prone to certain cancers than other breeds.

There are actually about 100 different types of cancer found in dogs. Some of the more common forms of canine cancer include lymphoma, mast cell tumors, soft tissue sarcomas, bone cancer (osteosarcoma), bladder cancer (transitional cell carcinomas) and cancer of the blood vessels (hemangiosarcomas).

Just as with humans, early detection of cancer gives your beloved dog the best chance of survival and recovery. So if you suspect your dog may be ill – or something is “just not right” – it is important to bring him in for examination by our veterinarians

We can diagnosis (or rule out!) the possibility of cancer based on x-rays, blood tests, ultrasound exams, physical appearance of tumors, and other physical changes or symptoms. If it is indeed cancer, it can then be confirmed through a biopsy.

Common Signs of Cancer in Dogs

Keep in mind that there are a variety of possible causes for every one of the symptoms listed below. For example, a bloated or distended belly could be a tumor, but it also could be caused by constipation or by swallowing a foreign object. So do not jump to conclusions. Always bring your dog in to the veterinarian for a proper diagnosis, to eliminate needless worry and to start any necessary treatments as soon as possible.

These symptoms may be signs of canine cancer – or another medical condition:

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Bleeding from the mouth, nose or other body openings
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty eating
  • Lumps, bumps or discolored skin
  • Non-healing wounds
  • Persistent diarrhea or vomiting
  • Sudden changes in weight
  • Unexplained swelling, heat, pain or lameness
  • Visible mass/tumor

 Tumors in Dogs

Just as in humans, not all tumors in dogs are cancerous. Tumors (also called “neoplasms”) can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Dogs today have a much better chance of being successfully treated for tumors thanks to advances in early diagnosis and treatment options.

Benign tumors tend to grow more slowly. They displace, rather than invade, the surrounding body tissues. They also do not spread throughout the body.

Malignant tumors are more unpredictable, and can grow at various rates – sometimes very rapidly. Malignant tumors invade the tissues around them, as well as spread (“metastasize”) to other parts of the dog’s body.

For most tumors, examining cells under a microscope can provide basic information about the tumor type. Taking a biopsy is often necessary to confirm the diagnosis and help determine if the tumor is benign or malignant.

CT scans, MRIs, or PET scans can also aid in the understanding of the tumor’s location and possible treatment options.

Is Cancer Preventable in Dogs?

Unfortunately, because the exact cause(s) of most cancers is not known, complete prevention of cancer is impossible. However there are some things you can do to help minimize your dog’s risk of cancer.

There is strong evidence that secondhand smoke increases the risk of some cancers in dogs – so giving up cigarettes will improve your health and your dog’s health!

Spaying of female dogs substantially reduces the risk of mammary cancer in dogs – especially if done before 12 months of age. And neutering male dogs eliminates the risk of testicular cancer.

And because certain breeds are prone to certain cancers, regular checkups will help your veterinarian keep an eye on any risk factors specific to your dog’s breed.

Treating Cancer in Dogs

Each type of cancer requires different, individualized care. Treatment can include one or more of the following: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, cryosurgery (freezing), hyperthermia (heating) or immunotherapy . . . as well as nutritional support and dietary changes.

The “stage” of the cancer (how large it is & how far it has spread); the type of cancer; and your dog’s age and overall general health, will determine which treatment(s) our veterinarians will recommend for your dog.

Some good news, though, is that dogs typically tolerate chemotherapy better than people! And, modern pain management treatments can help keep your dog comfortable during their cancer treatment and recovery.

Our Veterinarians Can Treat Dog Cancers

If your dog shows any suspicious signs or symptoms of cancer – or if you have a feeling that something just “isn’t right” – bring them in for a thorough examination as soon as possible. Remember it may be something less serious than cancer! And if it does happen to be cancer, early detection is the key to recovery. Schedule a consultation with our veterinarians to discuss the right diagnostic procedures and treatments . . . so you can enjoy your companion for as long as possible. Call us today at 310-536-9654.


Our South Bay veterinarians treat dogs and cats from the entire Los Angeles area, including:
Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Torrance, Hawthorne, El Segundo, Marina del Ray, Palos Verdes, Gardena, Carson and the surrounding areas.

CLICK HERE to schedule an appointment with one of our caring and experienced vets.

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