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Can You Recognize Signs of Cancer in Pets?

The atrocities of cancer are well-known. However, if you're fortunate enough to have never had one of your pets afflicted by this horrible disease, you may not know that dogs and cats can get cancer just like humans, right down to the same types of cancer. Common cancers in dogs include lymphoma, melanoma, hemangiosarcoma, and mammary cancer, though dogs often come down with many other types of cancer as well.

With cancer being such a common and serious affliction in pets, it's beneficial that you, as pet parents, be able to recognize possible signs of cancer in your dog or cat, and get them to the vet as early as possible should anything seem out of the ordinary. In light of May being Pet Cancer Awareness Month, below are some of the most common cancer symptoms to be on the lookout for.

Loss of Appetite and Weight Loss

If you notice that your dog is experiencing weight loss that cannot be explained by a new diet or that they seem to have suddenly lost their appetite, it could be due to an intestinal tumor. Dog tumors that grow in the intestines will push on the intestines and make it uncomfortable for the dog to eat, leading to a loss of appetite and weight loss.

Unusual Swellings and Growths

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A dog cancer lump that forms near the surface of the skin may become noticeable in the same way that people are able to notice tumors near the surface of the skin. If your dog has an unusual growth or swelling, it could be a cancerous tumor. It's important to note that not all dog tumors are cancerous, but if you notice a growth that looks and feels like a tumor it is certainly something you should get checked out by veterinary specialists.

Wounds that Won't Heal

For dogs that are active or live a rough and tumble life, wounds aren't uncommon. However, if your dog experiences persistent wounds that won't heal, abnormal cell growth could be the cause for the dog's normal healing process not working like it should.

Discharge and Bleeding

Abnormal discharge or bleeding can be a symptom of several different types of cancer. For example, bleeding sores in the mouth can indicate oral cancer, while discharge from the eyes or bleeding from the nose can indicate certain types of eye and skin cancer.


Lethargy can sometimes be difficult to spot given that it's entirely natural for dogs to slow down as they get older. However, if you notice that your dog is suddenly far less active and enthusiastic than they used to be, it's worth getting them checked out. Lethargy can be an indicator of a wide range of issues, not just cancer, but cancer can certainly cause dogs to become lethargic as well.

Changes in Body Temperature

Cancers are able to create what is called immune compromise, which is when the immune system is not as strong compared to normal. This lowered immune system makes animals more susceptible to infections, which can be detected by body temperature change. Monitoring and tracking body temperature daily or on an ongoing basis can potentially provide pet parents the earliest warning signs of abnormality in the pet’s body temperature.

Cancer Treatment for Pets

If you notice any signs that your dog or cat may have cancer, it's important to get them to a veterinarian as quickly as possible for proper tests and diagnosis. If caught early enough, many types of cancer in pets can be treated, restoring your dog or cat to their healthy, happy selves.