Is it the big ‘C’?
By Judie Amyot
This article was originally published in The Suburban
While not a pleasant topic, cancer is a dreaded disease that strikes terror in our hearts when either we or a loved one are diagnosed with it. But it is not limited to the human race as our beloved canine companions can also fall victim to it.
Recognizing the symptoms of cancer in dogs is no easy task as many symptoms are misleading and may end up being minor issues that are easily treated. However, it is worth investigating them to be on the safe side as we tend to know when something is just not right with our pets’ behaviour. What follows are some warning signs that bear investigating:
Collapsing: This is a major warning sign for your usually playful and active dog. Pay attention to the baseline of activity of your dog so any signs of lethargy and weakness will alert you to a potential problem that should be dealt with quickly.
Coughing: It is rare for a dog to cough but they may every once in a while to clear the airway to their lungs or if they have a piece of food or fur in their throat. However, continuous coughing all day for several days in a row could mean an infection, bronchitis or pneumonia or worst case scenario, lung cancer.
Weight loss: This is not only a health warning for humans but for dogs as well. Sudden weight loss in dogs, even if they are eating normally, may indicate the presence of gastrointestinal tumours and should be investigated immediately.
Mouth changes: The earlier an oral tumour is detected the better, as it can grow quickly and spread to the rest of the dog’s body. Check for bleeding gums and an unexplained loss of teeth as well as swollen neck glands where the lymph nodes are located. Oral cancer plagues larger dogs more than small ones.
Vomiting and diarrhea: Often caused by a change of food or eating something off the ground, these can also be symptoms of intestinal tumours that are affecting the normal functioning of the digestive and intestinal systems. If they become persistent, see a vet immediately.
Nosebleeds: In young dogs, this can be caused by foreign objects blocking the nasal airways, but in older dogs, it may be due to the blood’s decreased clotting ability or nasal tumours. If a nosebleed persists longer than a day, see the vet as soon as possible.
Seizures: A neurological condition caused by uncontrolled spikes of electrical activity in a dog’s brain, symptoms include sudden bursts of activity such as chomping and chewing, shivering and foaming at the mouth. Older dogs are more prone to seizures so if yours is having them constantly, a vet’s diagnosis is crucial.
Weight gain: With regular exercise and no increase in food portions, sudden and unexplained weight gain may be a cause for concern. Weigh your dog on a daily basis to try to establish a trend as some weight gain is normal as dogs age.
General pain or discomfort: Since dogs are unable to speak, signs they are in pain can be whining when you’re near, panting heavily when it is not hot or they have not been strenuously exercised or loss of appetite. If any of these indicators are constant, see a vet for an expert evaluation.
Skin changes: Lumps or swelling on your dog can be benign or malignant. Your vet can take a sample to be tested. Also, sores that don’t heal or lesions that cause constant itching may indicate cancer particularly in older male dogs. Seek a medical opinion as soon as possible.
While a dog’s sensitive smelling abilities can sniff out cancer in humans, they need help from us when they are the victims of this disease. If you are the least bit worried, act, don’t wait. Difficult decisions may lie ahead if your dog is stricken. Just be at peace knowing you did the right thing for your precious companion.