Cancer in dogs

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Similarly to humans, cancer is the leading cause of death among older dogs. It accounts for approximately 50% of deaths each year but can be successfully treated if diagnosed early. The medical science that studies cancer in animals is called veterinary oncology and veterinarians that specialize in cancer diagnosis and treatment are called veterinary oncologists.

As with people, dogs can get various kinds of cancer. Cancer in dogs is one of the leading cause of deaths in dogs but it can be successfully treated.[1]


Cancer is a multifactorial disease, which means it has no known single cause. However, it is known that hereditary and environmental factors can contribute to the development of cancer in dogs.[1]


Symptoms of cancer in dogs may include:

  • Lumps (which are not always malignant, but should always be examined by a vet)
  • Swelling
  • Persistent sores
  • Abnormal discharge from any part of the body
  • Bad breath
  • Listlessness/lethargy
  • Rapid, often unexplained weight loss
  • Sudden lameness
  • Offensive odor
  • Black, tarry stools (a symptom of ulcers, which can be caused by mast cell tumors)
  • Decreased or loss of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating[1]


Older dogs are much more likely to develop cancer than younger ones, and certain breeds are prone to specific kinds of cancers. Boxers, Boston Terriers and Golden Retrievers are among the breeds that most commonly develop mast cell tumors. Large and giant breeds, like Great Danes and Saint Bernards, are much more likely to suffer from bone cancer than smaller breeds. It is important for the owner to be familiar with the diseases to which their specific breed of dog might have a breed predisposition.[1]


Treatment options vary and depend on the type and stage of cancer. Common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy. A combination of therapies may be used. Success of treatment depends on the form and extent of the cancer and the aggressiveness of the therapy. Early detection offers the best chance for successful treatment.

Some dog owners opt for no treatment of the cancer at all, in which case palliative care, including pain relief, may be offered. Regardless of how treatment proceeds following a diagnosis, the quality of life of the pet is an important consideration. Some canine cancers can be cured, and almost all patients receive at least some benefit from treatment. In cases where the cancer is not curable, there are still many things which can be done to alleviate the dog's pain. Good nutrition and care from the dog's owner can greatly enhance quality of life.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Pet Care Cancer". ASPCA. 

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