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10 Signs of Cancer in Dogs

Reviewed by Dr. Sarah Tasse, DVM on Friday, April 22, 2016
Posted December 22, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling, board-certified surgeon in Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. His website is www.DrPhilZeltzman.com.

“I just can’t believe we couldn’t tell Missy had cancer,” said my teary-eyed client.  “There were no warning signs,” she added, as we discussed the biopsy results after removing a cancerous mass in the intestine.

It is notoriously difficult to detect cancer early in pets. Let’s get rid of a common myth: in many cases, cancer cannot be detected on blood work.

However, there are 10 things you can look for, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Veterinary Cancer Society. Even if the condition turns out not to be cancer, these signs may be able to detect another medical condition that needs veterinary attention. Also, it is critical to remember that a pet can be very sick “inside," without showing any of the signs “outside” (as in Missy’s case), which is why I recommend regular, veterinary checkups, ideally every 6 months. Early detection is key when dealing with cancer, so learn to spot the signs I discuss here:

1. Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
The most obvious sign is a mass (or bump, or lump) that keeps growing under the skin. Any surgeon will recommend that you don’t just “watch it,” but have it removed AND biopsied. If the mass turns out to be benign, that’s great. If it is malignant or cancerous, then at least we know and can discuss what to do next.

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at www.DrPhilZeltzman.com, and follow him at www.facebook.com/DrZeltzman.