When it comes to physical health, “cancer” is a dirty word.  The last thing you want to hear from the vet as he examines your precious cat or dog, is that they have a tumor or cancerous growth somewhere in their bodies.  Yet unfortunately, cancer is common in pets, causing nearly 50% of feline deaths, and nearly 50% of dogs older than the age of 10 will also contract some kind of cancer.  However, one of the best chances a dog or cat has at survival is if the cancer is caught early on.  Here are some of the symptoms to keep your eyes out for, so that you will be able to recognize whether or not your cat or dog might have cancer. The earlier the diagnoses, the better a chance your pet will have in finding the most effective treatments for healing

  1. Lameness, stiffness when walking
  2. Swollen places, hard knots (which progressively grow bigger)
  3. Slowed healing of wounds, cuts, or sores
  4. Lethargy, disinterest in exercising or playing
  5. Discharge or blood in the urine, or from the mouth, nose, and eyes, etc.
  6. Bad breath/strong body odor
  7. Difficulty urinating/defecating
  8. Rapid or consistent weight loss
  9. Changes in appetite/disinterest in food, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.
  10. Functional difficulties eating (struggle to swallow, chew, etc.)

Keeping good medical records of your pet will help you assess his physical health, and note any red flags of change. If your dog is routine-driven and always eats a bowl-full of food at 8 am, but over the last few weeks is less interested, or does finish anywhere near as much, this should alert you that something might be wrong.  If he has been losing weight and has much lower energy than usual, these could be indications that he has lymphoma.

Though every kind of cancer might be indicated through different signs, familiarize yourself with the common symptoms so that you can report back to your vet or seek professional counsel if you are ever concerned about the state of your cat or dog. For example, skin cancer (melanoma) may entail lumps or bumps under the skin, sores that are slow to heal, limping, etc.  Something that pet owners easily write-off as just a minor injury is lameness and limping, yet often this is a sign of severe, well-developed cancer. A pet may limp is he has a tumor on his joints, if he has bone cancer, or skin cancer, etc. Lumps and bumps that suddenly appear on a cat or dog’s body should be immediately assessed by a vet to see if they are cancerous or not.

Fortunately, with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgical procedures such as lumpectomies,  there are treatments available for pets with most types of cancer.  For those that are not curable, small life choices and changes to the diet can extend the life of an animal, and help him be more comfortable throughout his illness. One of the best ways to avoid getting cancer, is to see that your pets are spayed or neutered at a young age, and that they are given a well-balanced diet filled with vitamins C, E, A, beta carotene, and lycopene to help fight off cancerous cells.  Eating well is the best way to solidify the health of your pet, so make the changes necessary to give him the healthiest life possible.