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Causes of cancer in dogs, signs, effects and the treatment of dog cancer:
THE CAUSES OF CANCER IN DOGS
It is still not known why cancer develops in dogs, but the cause is when one or a group
of body cells spontaneously starts to divide and multiply. Some factors that may cause
this such as viruses, toxins, hormones acting as triggers and genetic factors. Injured or
abnormal tissue is at more risk of developing cancer, eg a fracture site may be more prone to
develop a bone tumour.
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TYPES OF CANCER IN DOGS
The most common type of cancer seen in dogs is benign skin cancer. Benign dog cancers are unlikely to
spread around the dog's body.
Malignant cancers will spread and cause disease elsewhere so should be diagnosed by your vet as early as
possible so that appropriate treatment can be undertaken. Most will be surgically removed to prevent
Female dogs may develop cancer in their reproductive organs or breast tissues due to the oestrogen hormone
acting as a trigger.
Male dogs with undescended testes are at risk of testicular cancer so should have this
condition treated by their vet.
Older dogs may develop lipomas, fatty lumps that form a benign mass. These will feel
soft, grow slowly and cause few problems.
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THE EFFECTS OF CANCER TO DOGS
Any tumour is occupying space that it should not and can have an effect on the rest of the dog's body.
For example, chest tumours may cause difficulty in breathing to the dog or bowel cancers may cause
bowel blockages. Untreated tumours may spread to other tissues and organs causing more
problems throughout the dog's body.
SIGNS OF CANCER IN DOGS
The following could be signs of cancer in your dogs, or may be another sign of ill
health and should be reported to your vet:
- A change in your dogs urinary or bowel habits, appetite or water consumption.
- Weight gain or loss should be reported to your vet.
- Any limb abnormalities or a limp.
- Lumps or bumps.
- Any abnormalities around or in the mouth, eyes, nose or ears.
TREATMENT OF DOG CANCER
Early examination by your vet is recommended if you suspect dog cancer. Early treatment is key to successful management
Most vets will want to take a biopsy of laboratory analysis to aid the correct diagnosis of dog cancer.
Some may do this before proceeding to surgery, others may remove the tumour and send off
Chemotherapy may be prescribed by the vet for tumours that are unable to be surgically removed
or after surgery. This may be in tablet or drip form. Chemotherapy side effects can include
vomiting, diarrhoea, greater risk of acquiring infections due to the immune suppression,
anaemia, blood loss and general weakness.
Radiotherapy may also be used for more aggressive tumours.
Sadly not all dog cancers and tumours are treatable and you may have to make the decision
to put your dog to sleep to end its pain and suffering.
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