Unfortunately, cancer in dogs is as much of a problem as with humans, which causes many dog owners to worry about their dog getting cancer later in life. Once dogs reach 10 years of age, around half will develop cancer, which is why it is so important to be prepared to look out for the signs.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is caused by abnormal cells overgrowing due to DNA damage. Unfortunately, in dogs this can be inherited but exterior environments can also increase the risk of the development of cancer. Tumors are not necessarily cancerous and in later life non-cancerous tumors are more common. There are many of types of cancer, usually named after the part of the body they originate in, but the main dog cancers are as follows:
Hemangiosarcoma – aggressive, serious, malignant blood vessel tumors which fill frequently with blood and can rupture leading to internal bleeding. They usually affect the spleen, skin, soft tissues and the liver.
Lymphoma – malignant cancer affecting the lymph nodes which usually would support the immune system. Up to 20% of lymphomas found in dogs are cancerous. This usually affects only the immune system organs, but can also be found on or in any part of the body.
Mast Cell Tumors – mast cell tumors are common and affect up to a third of all tumors on the skin. As well as affecting the skin they can also affect the lungs or intestines. The main function of the mast cells is to repair blood vessels, create new blood vessels, and fight parasites. Tumors of this kind can affect the repair functions and cause problems with blood pressure and heart rate.
Melanoma- melanoma affects the pigment cells, and cancer of these cells mainly affects the oral area including the mucous membranes. 10% are found on body parts that have fur but the majority affects lungs, liver and other important organs. It is an aggressive type of cancer so if suspected in your dog, immediate medical treatment should be sought.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma – this cancer starts on the external layer of skin and grows rapidly over time. These cancers are extremely invasive which is why a fast diagnosis is so important. This type of cancer is usually caused by sun exposure.
Osteosarcoma – another type of aggressive cancer that spreads quickly is osteosarcoma. It is a type of bone cancer that affects up to 10 thousand dogs in America every year. It often leads to amputation being required to stop the cancer from spreading to other areas of the body.
How to prevent dog cancer
To prevent your dog from getting cancer there is only so much you can do, especially if the cause is hereditary. To reduce the risk you should ensure you dog eats a healthy diet, has regular exercise and isn’t exposed to carcinogens whenever possible. Spaying and neutering is another way to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
What signs to look out for
Although the signs of cancer can be hard to detect, there are signs that owners should look out for by doing the following:
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