Navigating Cancer’s Terrain

Cancer in pets has become a common occurrence these days. As responsible pet parents, you must look out for the signs and ensure your beloved pet’s health is among your top priorities.


Cancer is the uncontrolled division of body cells. It may spread to surrounding tissues and may also spread to different parts of the body. Just like humans, cancer in pets is also on the rise. It is more prevalent in dogs above the age of 8 years of age. Some of the breeds who are more susceptible to cancer as compared to others, and those are – Rottweiler, Great Dane, Labrador, Beagle, Poodle, Doberman, Cocker Spaniel, Boxer, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Burmese Mountain dog, Scottish Terrier, and Bull Mastiff.

There are 4 stages of cancer –

  • Stage I – only a small size growth is seen
  • Stage II – fast increase in size of the growth
  • Stage III – it involves the lymph nodes
  • Stage IV – metastasis in other organs such as lungs, liver, etc.

There are two types of cancers – benign cancer and malignant cancer.

Benign cancer is a slow-growing tumour and is safe. Malignant cancer, on the other hand, is fast-growing and dangerous type of cancer.

Different types of cancer in pets

Some of the most common types of cancers in pets are as follows –

  • Lymphoma – a type of cancer that originates from the lymphatic system.
  • Melanoma – a type of cancer that originates in melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment in the skin.
  • Mastocytoma – a type of cancer that originates in the mast cells, which are a part of the immune system.
  • Osteosarcoma – a type of bone cancer that primarily affects the long bones, such as those in the legs.
  • Hemangiosarcoma – a type of cancer that originates in the cells lining blood vessels.
  • Fibrosarcoma – a type of soft tissue sarcoma that can occur in various connective tissues, such as muscle, fat, and fibrous tissues. In pets, it can result in tumours in different parts of the body.
  • Tumours – mammary tumour or breast cancer, nasal tumour, oral tumour, skin tumour.
  • Liver cancer
  • Blood cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Perianal adenoma – a benign tumour that occurs in the perianal area of male dogs, particularly those that are not neutered.
  • Histiocytoma – a benign skin tumour that commonly affects young dogs.
  • Papilloma – is a benign growth caused by certain types of viruses.

Mast cell tumour is the most common type of cancer seen in dogs. Hemangiosarcoma of the spleen is a fast-growing cancer of dogs and there are chances that it also spreads to the heart, liver, and kidneys.

Unveiling the culprits

Here are some of the main causes of cancer–

  • Environmental carcinogens found in smoke may lead to squamous cell carcinoma
  • Ultraviolet radiation in case of prolonged exposure to sun rays
  • Harmful chemicals like herbicides, insecticides, pesticides
  • Lack of exercise
  • Dietary causes and preservatives in food
  • Parasitic
  • Genetic factors and hormones
  • Lifestyle
  • Psychological stress
  • Old age
  • Herpes virus
  • Use of excessive perfumes and deo in pets

Quest for clarity

If you find any of the following signs in your pet, immediately get in touch with your vet. These symptoms may be underlying causes for various other health conditions, so you need to be careful.

  • Bleeding from the nose or mouth
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Abdominal distension
  • Change in appetite
  • Difficulty in eating
  • Any abnormal growth in the body
  • Lumps/bumps on the body or any skin discoloration
  • Persistent diarrhoea or vomiting
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Abnormal and foul-smelling discharge
  • Evidence of pain in body parts

Unmasking the menace with the right diagnosis

Your vet may use different diagnosis methods to determine the severity of cancer in your pet. These include – a rectal examination, endoscopy, X-ray of the abdomen area, USG of the abdomen area, CECT scan/ MRI/ PET scan, urine examination, fine needle aspiration cytology of cancerous growth.

Your vet can also recommend a CBC – if the white blood cell count is quite high and red blood cells are extremely low, it is suspected to be cancer in pets. A biochemical profile – hypercalcemia in dogs, hyperglobulinemia (in case of myeloma)indicate cancer in 70% of cases.

Prevention is always better than cure

Follow these tips to keep your beloved pets healthy –

  • Regular exercise for your pets is a must
  • Include vegetables and fruits in your furry friend’s diet
  • Make sure you get periodic health check-ups for your pet
  • Keep an eye on your pet’s weight and try to control it
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight
  • Avoid exposure to smoke and asbestos
  • While taking your pet for a walk, you can make him wear a muzzle. This way your pet will not lick insecticides, pesticides, or other chemicals
  • Schedule a yearly scan for your pet with your vet

Trust the experts with treatment of cancer

There can be different treatment options for your pet, depending on various factors like – his age, overall health, breed, type of cancer, stage of cancer, etc. Get in touch with your vet as he/ she knows the best treatment. The treatment options can be – chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy (SRS / SRT), immunotherapy, radioactive iodine, cryotherapy, and palliative care

Your veterinary oncologist may recommend surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these.

If your pet has been diagnosed with cancer, don’t panic. Take one day at a time and trust the treatment process. With so much advancement in medical science, you can give the best treatment to your beloved pet and take care of their health and wellness.

(Dr Hemant Jain – Vet surgeon and pet practitioner; Dr Nikhil Jain – vet surgeon and pet practitioner; Dr Shivani Jain – vet surgeon and pet practitioner, Nagpur)