10 signs of cancer in dogs and cats

Our companions can’t tell us when they’re not feeling well, so it is important that we know what to look for when it comes to illnesses such as cancer.

Unlike humans, dogs and cats can’t tell us when something’s wrong, so it’s up to us to keep an eye on their health and pay attention when anything changes. This is especially true with cancer, which is epidemic in our companion animals, and can be quite insidious in its early stages.

But what should you look for? Have your companion checked out if he exhibits any of the following ten signs:

1. Abnormal swellings, bumps or growths
2. Sores that do not heal
3. Weight loss or loss or appetite
4. Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating
5. Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
6. Offensive mouth odor
7. Difficulty eating or swallowing
8. Chronic vomiting or diarrhea
9. Persistent lameness, stiffness or difficulty exercising
10. Coughing

Veterinarian Dr. Janice Huntingford recommends going over your companion on a regular basis, looking for lumps or bumps on the skin, swollen lymph nodes, sores that do not heal, lethargy, low energy or sudden lameness. “You should examine your animal weekly for lumps and bumps,” she says. “New ones should be reported to the veterinarian. Also, if the dog seems lethargic or slow, he should have a checkup.”

“Never ignore any bump, sore, or blemish that comes up mysteriously or fails to heal quickly within a few days,” writes veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins in her book Your Cat—A Revolutionary Approach To Feline Health and Happiness. “Your veterinarian can evaluate such an area and make a determination about whether a biopsy with surgical removal is necessary.”

So what can you can do besides checking your animal for symptoms and hoping they don’t mean cancer? “Prevention by optimizing health is key,” Dr. Huntingford says. “Good diet and nutrition, preventing obesity, and plenty of exercise can help down-regulate the genes that cause cancer in animals.”

“Remember that cancer is an enemy, but it is not necessarily an undefeatable enemy,” adds Dr. Hodgkins. “You and your veterinarian have the best chance to win any battle with cancer if that battle starts early in the course of the disease.”