Signs and Symptoms of Cancer in Pets

OncoLink Team
Last Modified: March 27, 2018

Since our pets cannot tell us when they’re in pain, it’s important to be aware of any behavioral changes that may signal us to a pet’s distress. While some cancers can be detected through blood work, changes in behavior and activity are important warning signs to pay attention to. If you notice your pet is acting different or abnormal in any way, it is time to seek veterinary attention. Not all abnormalities lead to a cancer diagnosis. But, as in humans, early detection of cancer in pets is critical to ensuring the best possible treatment outcomes. Successful treatment often hinges on our ability to "catch it early".

Symptoms of cancer in animals are similar to those in humans. Some of the most common early warning signs of cancer ins pets are: 

An abnormal swelling that persists or continues to grow.

Regularly check your pets skin for lumps and bumps. Check behind the ears, in the mouth and around the face. Cancer can move fast. If you find any abnormality, be sure to note it and measure it. If it changes shape and size, its time for a visit to the vet for the growth to be evaluated.

Sores that do not heal

If your pet has a lesion on the skin that is not going away or healing, it’s time to call the veterinarian.           

Unexplained weight loss

Unless there has been a diet restriction or change, weight should remain stable throughout your pet’s life.

Loss of appetite

There are many reasons why your pet may have a loss in appetite, cancer being one of them. Seek veterinary advice if this is the case.

Pale gums

Healthy gums are a red-pink color. Pale or grey gums can be a sign of illness. If you notice your pet has pale, almost white, gums, seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible. 

Other signs may include:
  1. Bleeding or discharge from any body opening such as the nose or mouth
  2. Bad odor, especially from the mouth
  3. Difficulty eating or swallowing
  4. Reluctance to exercise or loss of stamina
  5. Persistent lameness or stiffness
  6. Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating

Cancer presents itself in our pets in subtle ways. We know our pets better than anyone. Its important to report changes to your veterinarian. Just because your pet has some symptoms or is acting differently, doesn’t mean that it is cancer. Being aware and mindful of your pet’s health and well being is an important step in early detection and treatment of cancer.

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