The National Canine Cancer Foundation blog lists the following seven important facts every dog parent should be aware of about this disease.
1. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), cancer is the cause of nearly half the deaths of dogs 10 years and older.
2. Early detection is critical. Check your dog routinely for any physical or behavioral abnormalities, and take him to the vet for regular exams. Some things to look out for are:
Lumps in your dog’s armpit or under his jaw
Sores that don’t heal
Poor appetite or difficulty eating
Bleeding or an unusual discharge from any orifice
3. One of the most common cancers are mast cell tumors on and under the skin. Any breed or mixed breed can get them, but Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Boxers, Boston Terriers, Pugs, and Shar Peis are known to be genetically predisposed to them, according to the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM). Between 10 and 15 percent of dogs with a mast cell tumor continue getting them throughout their lifetimes.
4. Just because your dog has a skin growth doesn’t mean that it’s cancerous. As with humans, tumors may be benign (harmless) or malignant (harmful). Your vet will probably confirm the tumor using X-rays, blood tests and ultrasounds, and then determine whether it is benign or malignant via a biopsy, in which a tissue sample is taken from your dog and examined under a microscope.
5. If your dog is spayed or neutered, the risk of certain cancers decreases. These cancers include uterine and breast/mammary cancer in females, and testicular cancer in males (if the dog was neutered before he was 6 months old). Along with controlling the pet population, spaying is especially important because breast cancer in dogs is fatal in about half of all cases.
6. As with humans, chemotherapy can be used to put canine cancer into remission and extend the lives of dogs with cancer. It may even cure the cancer in some cases. Chemotherapy slows or stops the growth of cancer cells. Unfortunately, it can result in unpleasant side effects for your dog, such as vomiting and nausea. But unlike humans, dogs rarely lose their hair from the chemo.
7. Cancer treatment for dogs is can be very costly, especially for advanced treatments. You may want to consider getting a pet insurance policy to help defray the cost, especially if your breed has a higher risk for cancer.