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Common Types of Cancer in Dogs

Picture of a Daschund

What are the most common tumors that our canine friends can suffer from? If you’ve ever asked yourself this question and you’re looking to do the best you can to make sure that your Fido never has to go through such an illness, you’ve ended up in the right place.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the most commonly encountered types of cancer that affect dogs. We’ll also include some information on how you can at least try to prevent this disease, although its causes are often idiopathic, which is how it ends up affecting dogs depending on their age and genetic factors.

Lymphoma

Dogs can develop several types of lymphoma, with one of the most common ones being that which involves the enlargement of visible (external) lymph nodes. There are other kinds of lymphoma, of course, such as those that affect the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, and even one that affects the nervous system.

While compared to other types of cancer, lymphoma can affect any dog regardless of breed, age, or sex, it is considered one of the most treatable forms out there. There are several chemotherapy agents available which all have good results.

Mast cell tumors

Mastocytomas can grow in virtually any organ in a dog’s body. Typically, in the development of this type of cancer, the body’s immune cells are involved, and that’s why the tumors can show up almost anywhere. The skin forms are more common, but the ones that are severe are those that affect the digestive and the urinary tract.

While some types of tumors can be removed surgically, the more advanced forms call for advanced treatment options such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Osteosarcoma

Bone cancer usually affects large and giant dog breeds, and it can often be found in the dog’s limbs. Unfortunately, it is one of the most aggressive types of cancer that affect our canine companions, and the problem is that it also metastasizes quickly and can spread to various parts in the body, including distant ones such as the lungs.

It’s also worth noting that, unlike other types of illnesses, it can be very painful. In some situations, surgical amputation is required mostly because the dog’s pain needs to be alleviated and there are no other types of doing this other than by removing the tumor and the affected bone.

Liposarcoma

While lipoma is benign, liposarcoma is malignant. This name is used for skin tumors that can develop between the muscle tissue and that basically consist of excess fatty tissue. Some tumors can be found in the dog’s axillary region while others can be seen in the dog’s trunk or groin.

The worst thing about it is that it can also grow inside the abdominal and pelvic cavity or in the chest. When the tumor affects the limbs, performing surgery and removing it is the correct course of action. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy might have to be performed in addition to the operation.

Oral melanoma

As one of the most commonly diagnosed oral cancers in dogs, oral melanoma can be found mostly in dogs with dark-pigmented gums and tongues. It’s dangerous as it often grows between the bone and the underlying tissue of the oral cavity.

Because it is so aggressive, most vets choose to remove as much of the tumor as possible and then treat it using chemotherapy or radiation therapy. These days, there is a DNA-based vaccine available for treating dogs that suffer from oral melanoma.

Mammary gland carcinoma

Tumors of the mammary gland are common both in dogs and in cats. It is estimated that spaying your pet (especially female dogs) before she enters her first heat cycle prevents mammary gland tumors by up to 80% and more. Unspayed female dogs are at a higher risk of developing mammary tumors as there is hormonal influence on the mammary tissue.

Before surgical removal, all mammary masses are submitted for a biopsy. While some tumors can be treated only with surgery, some will also call for other treatment options.

Primary lung tumor

While it might be a little less common compared to mammary cancer, for example, lung cancer shows up in many old dogs. In most cases, they are diagnosed by accident when X-rays are performed to discover another medical problem. If there is one tumor diagnosed in the lung, it can be removed surgically. However, if the entire lung is scattered with tumors, the operation is not recommended.

For tumors that have metastasized, surgery is not recommended. To extend the pet’s life, many vets recommend chemotherapy alone.

Hemangiosarcoma

Hemangiosarcoma is a type of cancer that affects blood vessels. It is most commonly encountered in organs such as the spleen, the right atrium of the heart, and even the skin. The liver is often a primary site of the disease.

When the tumor grows in the spleen, there are almost no clinical signs that can be discerned by the pet parent. This, of course, means that the cancer can develop without the dog receiving any type of treatment. If the spleen tumor grows to the point that the spleen is ruptured, the dog can lose his or her life. Hemangiosarcoma has a general prognosis of 3 to 4 years when it is diagnosed in its incipient forms. Patients receive a combination of chemotherapy and surgery and the forms that affect the skin can also be treated using radiation therapy.

Can you do something to prevent cancer in dogs?

There are two things you can do to make sure that your canine friend is less exposed to risks of developing cancer. One of them is changing his or her diet so that it’s as natural as possible. Many vets agree that commercial pet food is often overflowing with ingredients such as chemical preservatives and artificial colors, and many of these have been linked with an increase in cancer incidence (both in pets and humans).

The other effective measure of preventing cancer is by making sure that it is diagnosed in due time. What that means is that you should never miss your regular check-ups and you should take your dog once or even twice a year to the veterinarian, especially as he or she ages.

There are no miracle methods when it comes to preventing this disease, and that’s because cancer is a very versatile illness that comes in many forms and that has multiple developments.

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