As your dog gets older, he is, unfortunately, at greater risk of developing a vast variety of different health problems. One of the most prevalent is cancer. Many people tend to think of cancer as being something that only affects humans, but the fact is that our domestic animals are just as likely to suffer from the affliction as we are. Most us know exactly how devastating cancer can be, and this can also be the case for our animals, including your senior dog.
What is cancer?
Cancer is a complex illness characterized by the out-of-control growth of abnormal cells within the body. These cells become known as cancer cells and they keep dividing and multiplying until they form lumps, known as tumors. While many people think that all tumors are cancerous, this is not the case. There are some types of non-cancerous (benign) lumps that cannot spread to anywhere else in the body. However, cancer cells can grow into the surrounding tissue and even enter the blood or lymphatic systems so that they can get into other parts of the body. When this happens, the cancer is said to metastasize.
There are a wide variety of different cancers, many of which are named based on where the cancerous cells originated, e.g. liver cancer or throat cancer. Unfortunately, cancer is more common in older pets and is the leading cause of death in dogs over the age of 10. Early detection is crucial and the absolute single most important thing that you can do to ensure that your beloved dog gets the medical treatment he needs. By spotting the signs of cancer early, you can significantly increase the likelihood of it being successfully treated before it can do serious damage to the health of your canine pal. It may even save his life.
Symptoms of cancer in senior dogs
Virtually all animals, including your senior dog, have a strong, natural instinct to try and mask any signs of illness, so that they do not appear weak or vulnerable. This can make spotting any sort of disease or health problem very difficult. Nevertheless, your furbaby can’t hide the symptoms of illness forever and eventually he will be relying on you, as a conscientious and committed owner, to spot the signs that something is seriously wrong.
Exactly what symptoms your dog will have may well depend on the type of cancer that he has. However, here are some of the most common signs of cancer in senior dogs for you to look out for.
Abnormal swellings and lumps that don’t go away of their own accord or that continue to grow. These can occur anywhere on or inside the body, although obviously, external swellings are much easier to spot. Nevertheless, you may be able to feel unusual internal swellings.
Wounds or sores that do not heal. In most cases, these problems are resolved using antibiotics or topical ointments. However, if your senior dog as a wound that just will not improve, it is essential that you get him checked by your vet.
Loss of appetite. Often when a dog is ill, one of the first things to change is his appetite. If your furbaby isn’t eating as much as usual and you are concerned, speak to your vet. Similarly, if he is having problems earing or swallowing, there may be some sort of mass obstructing his esophagus and you should ask your vet for an investigation.
Discharge or bleeding from body cavities. This is not normal and so if your senior dog is bleeding or has unusual discharge from the nose, eyes, ears or rectum, seek veterinary advice immediately.
With all of these potential symptoms, it is easy to become paranoid and panicky about the thought of your senior dog developing cancer. However, it is important to keep perspective and remember that the sooner any medical condition is detected, cancer or otherwise, the better the outcome will be for your dog, so it is better to be educated and alert than woefully unprepared.
If you would like more information about the common signs of cancer in senior dogs, or if you have concerns about the health of your precious pet and would like to schedule a consultation at our animal hospital in Boiling Springs, SC, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.