Cancer.

The word alone strikes fear in every pet owner’s heart. Sadly, one in four dogs and one in five cats will develop cancer in their lifetime. But, all hope isn’t lost—early detection and treatment remain the best predictor for a positive outcome. Ensure you don’t miss a thing about your pet’s health by regularly visiting Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Groves for routine care and closely observing your pet’s at-home behavior.

Here are seven warning signs that could indicate your pet is suffering from cancer and that you need to take action.

 #1: Unexplained weight loss or gain in pets

Cancer can destroy your pet’s body condition by robbing nutrition and causing a state known as cancer cachexia. Despite a hearty appetite, cachexic pets appear thin and may lose muscle over their limbs and trunk.

Alternatively, with some cancers, fluid accumulates in your pet’s abdomen, and they look pot-bellied or overweight.

#2: Appetite changes and pets

Pets with cancer can feel unwell with a general malaise similar to the flu. If they also are nauseated, pets may lose their appetite or become selective about the foods they will eat. Appetite loss can also coincide with pain, so if your pet with cancer has physical discomfort (e.g., osteosarcoma or bone cancer), they may eat less or refuse food altogether.

Alternatively, if the cancer alters your pet’s hormone balance, they may develop a ravenous appetite, become uncharacteristically obsessed with food, and behave differently, such as counter surfing or getting in the trash. 

#3: Bleeding and pets

Unexplained bleeding from any body orifice (e.g., nose, mouth, rectum, or urethra) is always cause for concern. A ruptured internal tumor can cause cancer-related bleeding, which can range from mild and intermittent dripping to a steady flow. Oxygenated blood will be bright red, but the blood may also be a darker color.

#4: Non-healing sores and wounds in pets

Cancer alters your pet’s immune system function and can negatively affect the body’s ability to repair and heal injured tissues. Alternatively, a wound, sore, or dermatologic issue may be cancer itself. If your pet has a new or recent skin condition that is not resolving or a wound that isn’t improving, schedule a veterinary exam.

#5: Palpable lumps and masses in pets

Lumps, bumps, growths, and masses are perhaps the most familiar cancer signs. However, the only definitive way to determine a cancerous abnormality is with a fine needle aspirate cytology or a biopsy. Many masses, including large, firm lumps, are completely benign and noncancerous. If you find a lump on your pet, note the location and approximate size and share this information with your veterinarian. 

#6: Unusual odors and pets

Abnormal odors from your pet’s mouth, nose, or hind end can indicate an internal mass or growth. If you notice that your pet has an unusual odor or that other household pets are unusually interested in the smell, contact your veterinarian.

#7: Difficulty breathing and pets

Cancer can alter your pet’s breathing because of pressure on the diaphragm or by occupying chest cavity space as a solid tumor or as metastases (i.e., secondary, smaller tumors that indicate the cancer has progressed). Cancer-induced pain from anywhere in the body can also change your pet’s respiratory pattern. Unusual breathing patterns may include:

  • Coughing
  • Increased abdominal effort (i.e., your pet’s stomach and chest are active during breathing)
  • Panting when resting
  • Increased respiratory rate or breaths per minute 
  • Gasping, wheezing, or otherwise noisy breathing

Preventive action: Perform a monthly cancer check on your pet

Cancer is an elusive but ever-present threat to pet health that takes on many forms, but you can stay one step ahead of this merciless pet health threat with up-to-date veterinary wellness care and monthly at-home cancer checks. See the National Canine Cancer Foundation’s free step-by-step guide on performing this potentially life-saving assessment, which can easily be adapted for cats.

If you’re concerned that your pet has cancer, or simply want to do everything you can to reduce your pet’s risk, the Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Groves team is here to help.  Contact your nearest location for expert veterinary care, state-of-the-art diagnostics, and a compassionate team who loves your pet like their own.