Warning Signs of Cancer

By Carrie A. Wood, DVM, ACVIM (oncology)



With modern veterinary medicine, pets are living longer, but with this benefit comes additional realities. According to the Animal Cancer Foundation, cancer is now the leading cause of death in dogs over the age of 10. And cancer now accounts for approximately 50 percent of feline deaths every year. With so many pets getting a cancer diagnosis every year it’s more important than ever for owners of newly diagnosed pets to do their research, know their options and act in the best interest of their animals and themselves.

Our sincere hope is that no pet ever has to face a cancer diagnosis; sadly this is not a reality for many individuals. In the spirit of staying ever vigilant about the health of our pets the following is a list of symptoms to never ignore. If your pet is experiencing one or more of these then you should contact your veterinarian right away to schedule an evaluation:

Lumps and bumps - Not every lump or bump is evidence of cancer. But any new growth – or a bump that is growing – should be looked at by a veterinarian, who may order a biopsy to determine if the bump is cancerous
 Abnormal odors – Foul odors coming for a cat or dog’s orifices or body parts may be a concern. Cancers of the mouth, nose or anal regions can all present abnormal odors that should be evaluated by a veterinarian

Abnormal discharges – Discharges of blood, pus, vomit, diarrhea or any other discharge should always result in a check-up with the vet

Non-healing wounds – Just like in humans, lacerations or sores that do not heal within a normal time frame may indicate cancer

Weight loss – Sudden weight loss when pets are not on a diet can be an indicator of cancer and if coupled with any other warning sign, should prompt pet owners to call their vet

Appetite loss – While a change in appetite can result from any number of things, pets generally do not stop eating without a cause. Pet owners should see their vet if their pet experiences a sustained loss of appetite that leads to weight loss

Coughing or difficulty briefing – these symptoms can indicate cancer and should always be evaluated by a vet

Lethargy or depression – if a pet has cancer there is a chance he or she will suffer from depression and sleep more, become less playful and perhaps less willing to go out for walks. Although these symptoms can be present during any illness, they are frequently seen in animals suffering from cancer

Changes in bathroom habits – any changes in bathroom habits: difficulty eliminating, frequent elimination, blood in urine or stools, etc., are potential warning signs and should be evaluated

Evidence of pain – Limping or other evidence of pain when the animal is active, or pain too great for them to be active, can be indications of bone cancer and should be checked out

There’s nothing anyone can say or do to lessen the blow of a cancer diagnosis — perhaps the most serious of any disease our pets may suffer. But knowing the warning signs and educating ourselves about the treatment options can empower us to make the best possible decision for ourselves and our animals.

To read Dr. Wood's complete article on WickedLocal.com, including information about current treatment options, please click here

About the Author
Carrie Wood DVM, DACVIM is a board-certified specialist in medical oncology at Angell Animal Medical Center. Wood provides comprehensive care for pets with malignant disease and focuses on the diagnoses and management of cancer. Her areas of interest include novel applications of chemotherapy, immunotherapy and working with researchers to bring clinical trials to client owned animals.

For more information about the Angell Oncology service, please visit www.angell.org/oncology. To contact Dr. Wood or other members of our Oncology service, please email oncology@angell.org or call 617 541-5136.