Does a Lump Mean a Dog Has Cancer

A lump under a dog’s skin doesn’t mean a dog has cancer and you shouldn’t be alarmed if you find your pet has developed one. However, lumps under the skin aren’t always benign, so it’s important to regularly check your dog, and if you find a lump have it tested.

According to the National Canine Cancer Foundation, 3 out of every 10 dogs will develop cancer at some point in their lifetimes. It may surprise you to know that approximately 50 percent of all dogs that die after they’re 10 years old will pass away as a result of some form of dog cancer.

If a dog is lucky enough to have an owner who is vigilant about its health, a dog receiving early cancer treatment can be cured or have years added to its life.

As a responsible dog owner, you should check your dog’s skin every few weeks for any growths. If you find one, keep close watch on it for the next week or two and see if it increases in size. It could be something as simple as an insect bite which will go away in a few days. If the lump persists or grows larger, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Any lump that seems to have suddenly appeared overnight and grown rapidly should be checked to be safe.

The vet will examine your dog, checking the size of the lump and testing to see if it causes your dog any pain. The vet will remove some of the cells in the lump using a small needle so as not to hurt the dog. The purpose of this procedure is to see if any cancerous cells are visible. However, the needle aspiration is not always accurate so most vets will want to perform a biopsy on the lump to check for cancerous cells.

The vet will surgically remove a portion of the lump and the tissue surrounding it. It’s then sent to a lab for testing. The results will tell the vet whether the lump is just a fat deposit or whether it’s malignant. If it is malignant the vet will have to remove it.

If a dog has cancer, the surgical procedure it will undergo is not complicated. First, the dog is sedated, then the area around the lump is shaved and disinfected. The dog will be given anesthesia to keep it asleep and pain free while the surgery is performed.

The doctor will use a scalpel to remove the lump and all surrounding tissue. Blood vessels feeding the lump will be cauterized or tied off, and the lump is then removed. The incision is stitched up and covered with a bandage. Most dogs will have a cone placed around their neck to prevent them from licking and scratching the wound as it heals.

Cancer is more easily treated in dogs than it is in humans. Caring and loving your pet requires you to always be on the lookout for any lumps or masses under its skin that could indicate a serious problem. Never ignore a lump that is increasing in size and hope that it will go away with the passage of time.

Types of Cancer in Dogs

Cancer is one of the primary killers among all breeds of dogs but some breeds are more susceptible than others to certain types of cancer. Cancer can occur at any time in a dog’s life but it usually doesn’t rear its ugly head until a dog grows older. Treating dogs with cancer can be difficult for a veterinarian because the correct diagnosis can be challenging with the large number of different types of cancer that affect dogs.

Canine cancer can easily spread through a dog’s body, meaning that early detection and treatment is of paramount importance to a pet’s health and longevity.

One of the more common types of cancer found in most dog breeds is oral cancer. These cancers can be identified by the gradual, or sometimes sudden growth of tumors in a dog’s mouth. If these growths are cancerous and malignant, the dog may suffer considerably before any outward symptoms are seen. Even when the growths are benign rather than malignant, they can still be dangerous or deadly to a dog.

Liver cancer is the most common cancer affecting the major organs in the body. Tumors of the liver can develop quite suddenly, but usually take months or even years to fully develop. It’s very possible that a dog may be suffering from liver cancer for quite some time until the tumor becomes large enough that it begins to cause symptoms that indicate the presence of a cancerous growth in a dog’s body.

Bladder cancer is one of the leading forms of cancer in many dogs. Like other kinds of urinary tract diseases, bladder cancer can develop without the owner realizing it, and when it reaches a certain stage of growth it can have very painful consequences for a dog. This form of cancer is one of the most difficult ones to treat, partially because surgical removal of the infected tissue is difficult or even impossible.

Bone cancer is more commonly found in larger dog breeds who tend to have a higher rate of bone cancer and at an earlier age than smaller breeds. It is believed that the reason for this statistic is that the bones of larger breeds are growing and reproducing much more quickly than the bone cells of smaller dogs, allowing mutations to develop which can result in cancer.

A responsible pet owner will want to watch their pet for the ten early warning signs of cancer in a dog:

* Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
* Sores that won’t heal
* Weight loss
* Loss of appetite
* Bleeding or discharge from any opening of the body
* Offensive odor
* Difficulty when eating or swallowing
* Reluctance to exercise or loss of stamina
* Persistent lameness or stiffness
* Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating

It also helps to be aware of known and suspected cancer causing agents which include:

• herbicides
• insecticides
• second-hand smoke
• radiation exposure
• certain viruses
•chemical additives and preservatives in food

No one wants to lose a pet to cancer. When the unthinkable does happen it can be as devastating as losing a member of the family to cancer. Learn to watch for the early warning signs and keep your dog away from all known cancer causing agents.

Controlling Cancer Pain in Dogs

When a dog is diagnosed with cancer, a successful outcome of treatment is dependent on the cancer being detected early enough before a tumor has spread throughout the body. Unfortunately, at a late stage the cancer can’t be controlled and the prospect for recovery is poor. At this point, controlling cancer pain in the dog involves nothing more than administering a pain medication and making the dog as comfortable as possible.

During the several stages of cancer, a dog may be in pain, although in the beginning stages a dog is unlikely to suffer from much pain. When a tumor starts to grow inside the dog’s body, it may press against its internal organs or bones and cause a lot of pain.

“Stages” and “Grades” of cancer are theoretically close in meaning, but they are not the same. The stage of a tumor usually refers to how far along it is. To determine the stage of a dog’s tumor, a veterinarian will look at the size of the tumor, the number of tumors, and whether the cancer cells have invaded the bloodstream where they can travel to other sites in the body.

A late stage tumor, or late stage cancer, usually means the cancer has advanced to the point where it is more difficult to cure or treat the cancer and force it into long term remission.

An early stage tumor or early stage cancer means that the cancer has not progressed very far along. Usually these types of cancers are found in only one site of a dog’s body and have not spread to any other parts of the body and are located only where the tumor or cancerous cells were found.

The grade of a cancer describes how aggressive it is. A low grade cancer is one that is not very aggressive, whereas a high grade cancer is much more aggressive. Aggressive cancers grow quickly, invading the area around the tumor, or they enter the dog’s bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body.

Pain medication can help lower the pain and suffering of cancer, and the decision of when to administer medication has to be determined by a veterinarian.

The most common pain medication prescribed for dogs with cancer are analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). Depending upon the severity and spread of the cancer, a vet may also prescribe steroids. The main difference between NSAIDs and analgesics is that NSAIDs are able to control the pain and also reduce swelling. Common NSAIDs include aspirin or Rimadyl (generic name caprofen). Analgesics prescribed to dogs with cancer include tramadol and fentanyl.

In the last stages of cancer, when there is not much that can be done to help the dog, pain relief medications may be the only treatment a vet administers. Opiates are prescribed in these cases as the NSAIDs or analgesics are no longer effective for the intensive pain.

Radiation Therapy is also used to help manage pain in dogs with severe cases of cancer. Radiation therapy is administered on a regular schedule and will help relieve the dog’s pain, but it won’t remove cancerous cells and cannot stop their further growth. Radiation therapy is usually only recommended during the last phases of cancer when there is not much that can be done to help the dog.

Human pain medication should NEVER be given to dogs with cancer. Human medications usually include toxic ingredients that damage a dog’s liver and kidneys.

Caring For a Dog With Cancer

Caring for a dog with cancer is one of the most unselfish and loving things a human can do for their pet.

After working with the owners of hundreds of dogs with cancer, Dr. Kathy Mitchener, a Veterinary Oncologist, has identified three commandments of Cancer Care that are essential in maintaining the quality of life and the all-important human-animal bond. These three commandments can help build a feeling of hope for both you and your dog.

Commandment Number One: Do Not Let Your Dog Hurt

Comprehensive pain management is critical to the quality and longevity of life for dogs with cancer. Research has shown that once an animal is in pain, the pain response magnifies and the animal will suffer more. The goal is to prevent pain, not try to lessen it once it occurs. Local anesthesia sometimes proves to be helpful in dogs that have localized pain.

Pain-relieving medications like Fentanyl patches can be applied to your dog’s skin and they will slowly release their active pain killing ingredient. Oral pain relievers can also help, especially if your dog’s pain is mild. If your dog needs to undergo surgery, the pain medication should be started while it is still anesthetized, so when it wakes up the pain reliever is already working.

The proper care of a dog with cancer will help in managing its pain. Handle your dog gently and use an orthopedic bed or similar device to make your dog more comfortable and decrease its risk of painful secondary problems such as “bed sores.”

Commandment Number Two: Do Not Let Your Dog Vomit

Unlike humans, nausea and vomiting are not normal for dogs who are undergoing a treatment of chemotherapy. However, if your dog becomes nauseous and/or begins to vomit, it is vitally important that you manage the problem as quickly as possible. Vomiting dogs can quickly become dehydrated and develop electrolyte imbalances. Nauseated and vomiting dogs also will generally not eat, which brings us to the Third Commandment.

Commandment Three: Do Not Let Your Dog Starve

This is perhaps the most vital of all the Commandments. If a dog will not eat, but has a functioning digestive tract, the first step is to try to increase its appetite. Feed it good tasting food that has delicious aromas to tantalize your dog’s sense of smell. Try warming up the food to enhance your dog’s appetite.
Your dog’s diet will need to be tailored specifically for it. A proper and correct diet will limit your dog’s weight loss. The right diet will also improve your dog’s response to chemotherapy and decrease the adverse effects of radiation therapy. Your dog’s diet should limit the amount of simple carbohydrates and contain moderate amounts of highly digestible protein, and moderate to relatively high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

In caring for a dog with cancer, the medical management of the cancer is only one part of the objective. The emotional needs of your dog need to be met if you wish to succeed in providing the quality of life it wants and deserves. Spending as much time with your pet during this ordeal should be a priority, and simple petting and talking to your dog will strengthen the bond between you and may do wonders in prolonging your pet’s life.