There are many early warning signs of cancer in dogs and cats. Some of them can be very vague such as vomiting and diarrhea and others can be very obvious such as large lumps on the body that are easily observed and felt.
Cancer is more common in older dogs and cats, but we must remember that even young dogs and cats can develop cancer.
As I mentioned above, any obvious lumps or bumps on the body, head or legs could potentially be a cancerous tumor. Hard lumps that are well-attached to underlying tissues are more likely to be cancerous. Also very small skin lesions can turn out to be cancerous.
Lymph nodes are those small bean shaped organs found throughout the body and are typically difficult to find. If you ever find a swollen lump by either side of the jaw near the neck, in the arm pits, in the groin area or on the rear legs behind the area of the knee, they could potentially be swollen lymph nodes. Cancer of the lymph nodes is the most common cancer found in young dogs and cats.
Abdominal distension can mean many things, but in older dogs it can often be an indication of a large cancerous mass on one of the abdominal organs.
Coughing, sneezing, vomiting and diarrhea are very common signs that often are an indication of minor issues such as infections, allergies and stomach upset, but which can sometimes be an indication of cancer as well. Coughing with blood can be an indication that cancer may be growing in the throat or chest. Sneezing blood (especially from only one nostril) can be an indication that cancer may be growing in the nose.
A bulging of one eye can be an indication of glaucoma due to eye cancer that is fairly common in dogs and cats.
Seizures in an elderly dog or cat that has no prior history of seizures could be an indication that he/she may have a brain tumor.
If your pet has not been spayed or neutered there are some forms of cancer that are common in these dogs and cats. A female dog that has not been spayed or was spayed after her fourth heat cycle (around her 3rd birthday) have an increased risk of developing mammary tumors. Dogs that have not been spayed also have the risk of developing cancer of the uterus or the ovaries.
Male dogs that have not been neutered (castrated) can develop testicular cancer. Any intact male dog that has testicles that are uneven in size, with the larger one hard and irregular, is a strong suspect for testicular cancer.
Finally, weight loss without any other apparent signs of illness is a very important finding and can be an indication of cancer. If your pet is happy, eating and drinking but is losing weight, there is something abnormal going on and your pet needs to be examined.
Lumps and bumps
Coughing, sneezing, vomiting, or diarrhea (with or without blood)
Seizures (late onset)
Unexplained weight loss
Enlarged lymph nodes
Just remember: all of these signs can be an indication of cancer but they can also be an indication of much simpler problems. The initial step to take when you first observe a problem with your pet is to call your veterinarian and schedule an exam. Don’t wait!