There are fewer words that strike fear in the heart of pet parents than the word cancer. Many of us have journeyed through cancer with our beloved pets and their human counterparts. Each year, millions of pets are diagnosed with cancer. Early detection is critical in helping our pets live longer lives and have a better quality of life. In this month’s blog, we will identify several signs that could indicate your pet has cancer. At Southern Crossing Animal Hospital, our veterinary medical team is equipped with the latest in diagnostic testing and imaging to ensure an early diagnosis and therapeutic plan. With today’s technology, pets have opportunities to benefit from the latest advances in chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immune therapy and cancer vaccines. Palliative care, holistic therapy and hospice services are also available for our pets.

The key to any successful outcome for our pets is early detection. Careful observation of your pet can lead to an early diagnosis and a change in outcome.

#1 Change in Behavior

Because animals do not have human language to describe physical changes in their bodies, they use animal language. The most common “animal language” spoken is a change in behavior. Most dogs and cats are creatures of habit. However, when illness occurs habits will change. Many animals will change their sleeping habits or even their “resting” habits. You might notice Fluffy is sleeping under the table in the dining room rather than her bed in the den. Any changes in the routine of your pet can be an early indicator that an illness is in its infancy.

#2 Weight Loss

Weight loss in pets always has a cause. Weight loss can occur in the pet that has decreased appetite or in a pet that is eating. Since cancer is a rapidly progressive disease, it needs calories to grow. Because of this caloric consumption by cancer, pets will lose weight in the face of a normal appetite. Pets that are eating well but losing weight need to be evaluated properly for disease.

#3 Internal or External bleeding

Internal bleeding is much harder to detect. Pets that have vascular tumors in the liver or spleen may be prone to internal bleeding. Signs of internal bleeding are loss of appetite, lethargy, listlessness, pale mucous membranes, isolating from the family and weakness. Signs of external bleeding (growths on the skin that bleed, nosebleed, blood in urine) are much easier to detect and need to be addressed by your veterinarian.

#4 Chronic vomiting or diarrhea

Most gastrointestinal issues result from dietary related problems. However, when vomiting or diarrhea persists, it can be an indicator of a more serious illness. Because cancer stresses the body, many pets will develop chronic diarrhea or vomiting from the stress. Proper evaluation with diagnostic imaging and testing will help your veterinarian determine the cause of these symptoms.

#5 Change in breathing

Any change in your pet’s breathing pattern is cause for concern. Many cancers will metastasize (spread) to the lungs. This change in the lung structure will cause heavy breathing at rest, heavy panting or even open mouth breathing. Abnormal lungs can also lead to exercise intolerance. Some pets with cancer are unable to run or play with the same stamina as before. Any changes in your pet’s breathing or activity level need to be evaluated by your veterinarian.

#6 Lumps and Bumps

Many lumps and bumps found on our pets are insignificant. However, without proper testing, it is impossible to know which lumps are cancer and which are benign. Our veterinarians will offer testing solutions (needle aspirates, biopsies, removal of the mass and biopsy) to help determine the significance of the new or growing lump. At Southern Crossing Animal Hospital, all lumps and bumps are considered significant and need to be evaluated to ensure they are not a danger to the pet.

#7 Foul odor from mouth

Dental and periodontal disease account for most of the bad doggy and kitty breath. However, soft tissue lumps or masses in the mouth can also cause a foul odor. Routine dental care at home and by your veterinarian allows for proper evaluation of the oral structures. Cancerous oral masses are typically very aggressive; therefore, early detection is critical to a more favorable outcome.

As I close, I am painfully aware of this cancer journey. My sweet girl, Roxanne, was diagnosed with aggressive liver cancer in May 2022. She is currently undergoing medical therapy and immunotherapy for her disease. Although her prognosis is not good, she is doing well in her journey. Early detection was key in her successful surgery and current therapy and I am so thankful for the days I have had with her.

If any of these symptoms are occurring in your pet, please call us to schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians. Early detection could be the difference in the outcome with our beloved fur babies.