Cancer & Your Pet. The Signs & Symptoms. Early Diagnosis is Critical
How to Diagnose Canine Cancer
A diagnosis of cancer is something no pet owner wants to hear. However, it is better to have a diagnosis in order to start on a treatment plan rather than ignore the problem and hope it goes away. Unfortunately, cancer is relatively common in our pet dogs with around half of dogs over the age of 10 years old developing cancer of one form or another.Some cancers are more serious than others, so this diagnosis does not automatically mean a death-sentence. If you think your dog might have cancer, know how to diagnose it so you can get your dog the proper treatment.
Recognizing Cancer Symptoms
Look for lumps on the skin.The most important thing you can do is to be alert for changes in your dog. This includes paying attention to lumps, like watching for the growth of a new lump on the skin, the enlargement of an existing lump, and a change from a lump not bothering the dog to becoming angry-looking or itchy.
Watch for unexplained weight loss.Another common symptom of canine cancer is weight loss. If your dog suddenly loses weight without a reason, like diet or increased activity, it could indicate cancer. Sudden decrease of appetite or lack of eating may also be a symptom.
- Weight loss is a common symptom for many canine diseases. You should take your dog immediately to the vet if he has lost weight so your vet can find out what is wrong.
Notice any respiratory difficulties.Respiratory difficulties, like problems breathing or coughing, may point to cancer. Cancer can metastasize in the lungs, which causes respiratory distress.
- Be aware respiratory problems may be caused by other conditions.
Check for abnormalities.Cancer symptoms also include changes in bowel habits, signs of pain, depression and lethargy, wounds that won’t heal, and abnormal odors. While these symptoms may not mean cancer, they need to be checked out by your vet just in case.
- Any sustained change, such as weight loss, lack of appetite, decreased energy, or increased thirst, are indications your dog is unwell. There are many possible reasons why, one of which is cancer. The important thing is to get the dog checked by a vet so that the cause can be localized and a diagnosis reached.
Check your dog’s skin once a week.It is a good idea to check your dog's skin once a week as part of your regular grooming. Make a note of any lumps and bumps. If you can, photograph the lumps and bumps, measure them, and make a note of the size.
- Any skin lump should be checked by your vet. Those that are worthy of urgent attention include red or inflamed lumps, itchy or painful lumps, those which seem deeply embedded and attached to the tissue beneath, darkly pigments lumps, or those which are growing, especially if they are growing quickly.
Getting Your Dog a Medical Diagnosis
Take your dog to the vet.If you believe something may be wrong with your dog, take him to the vet. The vet will perform a physical exam in order to draw up a short list of problems which could account for the symptoms.
- This list is used to decide on the most useful and appropriate tests that will help the clinician reach a diagnosis.
Get your dog a physical exam.The vet will try to localize which bodily system is involved. The vet will use a physical exam to look for areas of tenderness or pain, and areas which feel abnormal, especially if the main symptom is poor appetite and weight loss.
Run screening blood tests.If your vet suspects cancer, she will probably run screening blood tests. This is to check the numbers of red and white blood cells. This blood test also checks out organ function, which can highlight if the liver, kidneys, gut, or pancreas are healthy or not.
- Veterinarians in the US are now able to offer the VDI-TKcanine+ blood test. This new test looks for a blood biomarker that indicates abnormally rapid cell division. When cells reproduce in an abnormal way, they release a chemical called thymidine kinase, and it is this chemical which the blood test detects. As with any test, it is not foolproof. If the results point to cancer, it does not pinpoint which part of the body is affected. Further tests are still necessary in order to find out where and what type of cancer.
Decide on further tests.Your vet may want to do further tests after seeing these results. Often imaging is the next step. The vet will choose which imagining test to use based on the equipment availability, operator expertise, and the client's financial budget.
- Radiographs are a popular starting point since they can highlight soft tissue enlargements in the abdomen or chest and give excellent information about bones.
- Ultrasounds are another commonly used tool. They give clues as to the size of organs, if abnormalities are present in the tissue structure, plus allow growths to be visualized.
Biopsy the lump.Biopsying the lump is a crucial tool for diagnosing cancer. The vet may use a needle to aspirate the lump.If the lump is large or in a hard-to-reach place, then a small sample may be harvested in order to get an answer as to what the tissue is. This then allows the surgeon to plan his surgery to obtain the best possible outcome for the patient.
- If the lump is small or in an accessible place like the skin, an excisional biopsy may be performed. This removes the whole of the lump, and then the whole lump is sent to find out exactly what it is.
Know that diagnosing early stage cancer is problematic.Diagnosing cancer, especially in the early stages, is problematic for a number of reasons. There is no one single test that guarantees to determine if your pet has cancer. Each type of cancer has its own type of test.In addition, the symptoms for cancer tend to be general rather than specific. Thus it's not possible to take one sign, for example a cough, and say conclusively that the dog has cancer.
- For example, if a dog has lung cancer, the symptoms will be those of shortness of breath and a cough. These signs are similar to the majority of other problems which affect the lungs, ranging from a mild respiratory infection to parasitic disease or heart failure.
QuestionMy dog has a tumor in her brain. Where can I go to get a second opinion?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can just find another veterinarian in your area; I would recommend trying to find 3-4 names before deciding which one to see.Thanks!
Video: Dogs Can Smell Cancer | Secret Life of Dogs | BBC
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