Our canine companions, particularly our old dogs, can indeed develop several kinds of cancer.
We are wholeheartedly with you if this subject is topical for your pet. The announcement of cancer is always worrisome and disconcerting news. It’s normal to feel lost in this kind of situation and that’s why we’re here to shed some light on it.
This article will guide you through the different types of cancer that exist in dogs, their symptoms, their natural treatments and how to prevent them.
We are happy to be able to satisfy thousands of pet parents with the advice of our experts and our suggestions for holistic products.
Indeed, purebred dogs have a smaller genetic pool. Due to this limited genetic variety, they are more at risk of developing certain cancers. According to this theory, mixed breed dogs are therefore less at risk of genetically linked cancers.
However, some cancers develop for no apparent reason and others are caused by components of the environment (for example pesticides, preservatives in food, chemicals in the air, etc).
It's hard to pinpoint the exact causes of each cancer. That said, physiologically speaking, cancer is caused by the uncontrolled growth of cells in the body. Depending on the nature of these cells, there are different types of cancer.
If your dog develops a lump, have it checked by a vet. Many old dogs will develop masses, but these are not always cancerous.
What are the signs of cancer in dogs?
If your dog is getting older and has one or more of these signs, it’s important to see an animal health professional for an accurate diagnosis.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of the symptoms of cancer in dogs:
Sudden weight loss
Palpable masses that grow rapidly
Manifestation of pain
Wounds that do not heal (weakened immune system)
Loss of appetite
Respiratory or digestive disorders
Changes in behavior
Lameness (without evidence of accident)
We invite you to learn more about these 10 signs of cancer in dogs, because early detection can be the best way to save your beloved companion.
How to detect cancer in dogs?
As you might suspect, depending on where these problematic cells are located, the symptoms of cancer can vary widely. A visible mass or a change in a dog’s habits are often the signs that lead people to consult a vet.
If the cancer is in the brain, the dog will have neurological signs. If it’s in the lungs, it will have difficulty breathing. If it’s in the stomach, the dog will have digestive issues, and so on.
Make sure to watch for the symptoms mentioned above and take action fast.
What are the most common types of cancer in dogs?
Different types of cancer are classified according to the system or organ in which the cancer cells initially multiply. Here is a list of the most common cancer in dogs (including the most aggressive dog cancer) :
Skin cancer in dogs (melanoma and malignant melanoma)
Malignant melanomas in dogs are skin cancers that attack the cells responsible for producing melanin (a pigment)- the melanocytes. Benign (and therefore harmless) melanomas often develop in hairy areas on the dog, while malignant melanomas are very common in the mucous membranes of the mouth. Bad breath would therefore be a symptom of this common and dangerous type of cancer.
There are several types of skin cancer in dogs, just like in humans. The three most common are: malignant melanoma as discussed above, mastocytoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.
Bone cancer in dogs (osteosarcoma)
Osteosarcoma is a malignant tumor that affects the dog's bone cells. It can appear on X-ray as an abnormal bone proliferation. Sudden lameness or excessive licking of a limb could be signs of this severe and painful bone cancer in dogs. It’s most common in large dog breeds and often occurs at the tips of long bones.
Each year, approximately 10,000 dogs are diagnosed with bone cancer. Unfortunately, it is a fairly common type of cancer in dogs.
Liver cancer in dogs
As the name says, liver cancer in dogs develops in the hepatic tissue (liver tissue). An abdominal ultrasound may detect a lump in your dog's liver, which can cause vomiting, loss of appetite, and weight loss. A biopsy is necessary to determine the cancerous nature of the mass.
Unfortunately, the majority of tumors that develop in the liver are malignant, which means that they are cancerous and have the possibility of metastasizing.
Bladder cancer in dogs
The signs of bladder cancer and the symptoms of a urinary tract infection are very similar. Blood in the dog's urine may be observed, for example, in bladder cancer. Further testing should be considered if your dog does not recover from a UTI following treatment.
Bladder cancer in dogs accounts for about 2% of all cancers in dogs. It is therefore a less common type of cancer. It is usually an aggressive cancer that metastasizes, spreading to the lungs among other places.
Stomach cancer in dogs
This type of cancer causes symptoms related to discomfort in the digestive system, such as vomiting and a marked loss of appetite. The diagnosis of this generally aggressive cancer is often late since these signs are non-specific.
It's hard to say what causes stomach cancer in dogs. However, we do know that some breeds are more prone to developing it. In particular this includes the Chow-Chow and the Beagle.
For more details on this disease, I invite you to read our article on stomach cancer.
Lung cancer in dogs
Primary lung cancer in dogs is quite rare. That said, other types of cancer can spread to the lungs through the bloodstream, which is known as metastases. Chronic cough and breathing difficulties are the main signs. These tumors are detected using chest x-rays.
Primary tumors are usually one-off and large in size, while secondary tumors (metastases) are smaller in size and more numerous.
Spleen cancer in dogs
Whether benign or malignant, spleen tumors must be taken seriously. When they increase in size, they can cause the organ to rupture and cause severe internal bleeding (since this organ is used to store the dog's blood cells). Fortunately, a dog can live without its spleen. It is therefore surgically removed in the event of cancer.
Two thirds of tumors that grow in the spleen are actually hemangiosarcomas, a type of tumor that attacks blood vessel cells.
Pancreatic (pancreas) cancer in dogs
Different types of cancer can develop in the dog's pancreas. They usually cause vomiting, diarrhea and significant weight loss. It’s often detected late, making the chances of recovery slim.
The life expectancy of a dog with pancreatic cancer is 6 months to 2 years, depending on the stage of the disease when diagnosed and the treatment plan chosen.
Breast or mammary cancer in dogs (mammary gland carcinoma)
Cancer of the mammary glands is very common in unsterilized females, since it’s a cancer influenced by hormones. That said, it’s not impossible to see it in sterilized females. It’s often found by noticing one or more masses in the abdomen, near the teats.
I have personally assisted in surgeries to remove breast masses from several dogs, and all of them were unsterilized females. They are in fact 52 times more at risk of developing breast cancer tumors than females sterilized before their heat.
It is rarer still to see breast cancer tumors in males, but it is not impossible!
Testicular cancer in dogs
This cancer is detected by noticing one testicle that is larger than the other. It’s a common cancer in dogs with one or two undescended testicle(s). Testicular tumors are common in uncastrated male dogs. The best prevention for this type of cancer is obviously castration.
Not all lumps that develop in the testes are cancerous. However, several types of cancer, such as hemangiosarcomas, can affect these organs.
There are actually three types of malignant tumors that are unique to this area of the body. To learn more about testicular cancer in dogs, I invite you to read our full article on this subject.
Prostate cancer in dogs
The prostate is part of the canine reproductive system. This gland participates in the production of the liquid emitted during ejaculation. Prostate cancers are uncommon, but serious. It’s more common to see a prostate gland with a bacterial infection for example, or a benign hyperplasia (marked increase in size).
Prostate cancer can be difficult to diagnose, but there are some symptoms that can set off alarm bells. I am thinking, among other things, of blood in the urine and pain when urinating or passing stools.
Mast cell tumor in dogs
Mast cells are cells of the immune system involved in the processes of inflammation and allergic reactions. Mastocytomas are most often manifested in their cutaneous form, but can also develop in the intestines. A simple cytology (analysis of cells under a microscope), following a needle puncture of the mass, can lead to a diagnosis. This type of cancer can be dangerous in dogs if not taken care of, as it can metastasize.
Skin mast cell tumors don't always look the same, so beware. They may take the form of a lump or mass, a small bump, or a red ulcer-like growth. Any change in the skin, anything that seems unusual to you, should therefore be seen by a vet for an early diagnosis of this kind of tumor.
Fatty tumors in dogs (lipoma)
Lipomas are very common in older dogs, especially those who are overweight. They are very soft on palpation (inspection). They are sometimes impressive in size, but if they do not cause any discomfort, they do not need to be removed. They are benign.
My dog has a lipoma that developed five years ago. He lives very well with this non-dangerous mass.
There is also a type of cancerous tumor that attacks fat cells called liposarcoma. These malignant tumors are rare but dangerous.
Hemangiosarcoma in dogs
More easily called cancer of the blood vessels, hemangiosarcoma is very malignant and spreads quickly in the body. It’s one of the most aggressive cancers in dogs. We often find metastases of this cancer in the heart or spleen. Signs of this cancer often appear when it is too advanced to allow curative treatment.
There are three types of hemangiosarcoma; cutaneous, subcutaneous and visceral (which attacks internal organs). The organs most affected in the case of visceral-type hemangiosarcoma are the spleen, heart and liver.
Lymphoma in dogs
This is cancer of a type of white blood cell; lymphocytes. These are part of the dog's immune system. This cancer often develops in the lymph nodes and is characterized by swelling of these (found in the dog's neck, amongst others). Other types of lymphomas can affect different organs and create a variety of symptoms, such as skin irritation.
The life expectancy of a dog with lymphoma is approximately 6 to 12 months, depending on the stage of the disease when diagnosed.
These tumors can affect many different areas of the brain. The most common types found in dogs are meningiomas (a tumor in the meninges, the lining of the brain) and gliomas (a tumor in the tissue supporting neurons).
A tumor in the brain can be primary or secondary. A primary tumor develops initially in the brain, whereas a secondary tumor is a metastasis from cancer of another origin that spreads to the brain.
Symptoms of brain cancer in dogs depend on its location. Some dogs may experience vision loss, while others may develop changes in their behavior, for example.
Unfortunately, the prognosis is never very good for this type of cancer, as it is very difficult to treat with conventional medicine. It is also very expensive to diagnose it. This is why many people turn to holistic medicine when they fear that their dog has brain cancer.
How to treat cancer in dogs?
There are treatments for dogs that have cancer. In fact, a diagnosis of cancer is not necessarily the end for a dog.
There are several approaches to care available to help your pup, whether it's conventional therapy, such as radiation and chemotherapy, or holistic therapy, such as a treatment focused on nutrition or based on natural products.
Conventional treatments to fight cancer in dogs
Since most canine cancers are very similar to human cancers, dogs can benefit from the same kind of treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. However, these treatment methods for dog cancer are very invasive.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy
The approach of the majority of vets to these conventional dog cancer treatment techniques is to improve the animal's quality of life, and not necessarily to increase life expectancy. In young dogs, yes, but in old dogs suffering from cancer, the main aim is to increase their comfort in their last moments.
How to shrink a tumor in dogs?
Radiation therapy is usually done in specialized centers and is usually used to kill cancer cells remaining after surgery, or to shrink a tumor. Also called radiation therapy, this treatment can be used in combination with chemotherapy. It is particularly useful for localized tumors, such as nasal or oral tumors which are often inoperable.
Keep reading to learn more about a natural way to help shrink your dog's tumor.
The excision of a mass in surgery, when possible, remains the option giving the greatest chance of healing.
As part of my work in a vet clinic, I assist at least one lump removal per week, if not more. I’ve seen a lot of success with this technique.
The vet will judge the appropriateness of this treatment depending on the condition of the animal.
How to treat tumors and dog cancer at home naturally?
Even if you are dealing with the most aggressive cancer in your dog, you can still help your pet feel better right from home.
There are many natural treatments for dog cancer that exist.
They are safe, inexpensive, and your pet can comfortably benefit from them at home.
Holistic and Alternative Cancer Treatments for Dogs
You can also use natural tools to help your dog fight cancer. Mild holistic treatments existand can be even more effective when combined with conventional treatments. Nutrition, specifically antioxidants, and remedies based on natural ingredients can be major assets in the fight.
Read on for our suggestions on a natural product (the PiptoPet).
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is a powerful anti-inflammatory. It is recognized as having the ability to kill cancer cells in the early stages of their development. It is therefore the holistic remedy of choice for canine cancer and is easy to find.
Many people are turning to medicinal mushrooms as a natural alternative for dog cancer. I am thinking for example of the well-known Chaga, which can helps reduce the growth of tumors in the lungs, stomach and breast tissue. Hericium, another type of mushroom, is useful in the fight against leukemia and liver cancer.
A Good Nutrition
Food plays an important role in the fight against cancer. A healthy and balanced diet allows the body to function properly and helps the animal to recover more easily by supporting its natural healing mechanisms.
Your dog receives antioxidants in its diet, in the form of vitamins and minerals. Antioxidants help fight the oxidation process. The latter leads to the formation of free radicals, which contribute to the development of cancers. Antioxidants are therefore important allies.
You can ask your vet for a safe antioxidant supplement for your dog, or simply add some to its diet. Be careful not to overbalance your dog's gut flora by adding only a small amount of the new food.
Carrots, for example, are rich in antioxidants. Add a few pieces to your dog’s meal or use them as treats!
Sweet potato is also a food rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Be sure to cook it before giving it to your dog.
Finally, tomatoes are also thought to have anti-cancer properties. They are believed to have the potential to slow the growth of certain types of cancer cells.
Omega-3 supplements are also recommended, as they fight chronic inflammation in the body and improve the taste of food. Animals with cancer often have loss of appetite as a symptom, so this supplement increases their chances of getting good nutrition and receiving all the nutrients needed for the body to function properly.
A product based on natural ingredients
Do you know the birch polypore? Also called Fomitopsis betulina, it’s a medicinal mushroom that is used to help dogs in their fight against cancer.
“My English cocker spaniel Bo had a small lump at his neck. It got bigger so I took him to the veterinarian to have it checked.
Bo was given a biopsy that confirmed it was malignant oral Melanoma. He was referred to an Oncologist. I was told that it had spread all over his lungs. He had 30 lymph nodes in his lungs alone. Bo was give 1-3 months to live.
My heart was torn to pieces.
One month has passed since Bo had a first seizure that lasted 6-7 minutes. He had another the following day and another attack three hours later on the same night. Two nights after another attack.
Then two more nights after that. I hated to she him suffering this way so I decided to go on the internet desperately looking for help for my fur baby.
I found the Zumalka website and got consultation for a melanoma cancer treatment kit.
Although the kit was a little costly. I struggled to buy it and it has helped Bo like a miracle.
He hasn’t had a seizure since October 29th. He is active, does his daily activities, uses the bathroom, eats and goes for his walk and goes up and down the stairs.”
Now that you are well-equipped to fight your dog's cancer, all you need to do is keep your spirits up.
Be the soldiers against the scourge that is cancer and, above all, keep hope. Dogs are especially resilient creatures and can always surprise us!
We are with you during these difficult times and we wish you quality time with your dogs. Have you ever used any of the natural treatments mentioned above? Share your experience with us in the comments.
Contact us if you would like to discuss your pet's specific situation with one of our experts.
Véronique Fournier uses her extensive knowledge to write articles about pet health for Zumalka.
She earned her degree in Animal Health from Cégep La Pocatière in Quebec. Her experience includes internships on animal production farms and rehabilitating birds of prey; managing the care of up to 100 wild animals in a day at the SOS Miss Dolittle Refuge; working at the Aquarium of Quebec, where she monitored 10,000 animals of 300 different species. She worked as a chief animal health technician in a veterinary clinic in British Columbia, as well as a few contracts in various other veterinary clinics.
She also makes lots of canine friends by volunteering at local shelters, fostering, and dog sitting for friends.
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