Is cancer in dogs common?

Unfortunately, I think it is common, but I think the reason why it's common is that our dogs live a long time. Tux here is 15 years old due to good care by his owners and good veterinary care as well.

Dr. Mary Beth Soverns
Countryside Veterinary Clinic

What are the common types of cancer in dogs?

The most common type of cancer we'll see in dogs is skin cancer. Little bumps and lumps that we might see on our pets. Once in a while, it's malignant cancer, like mast cell tumors, but most bumps and lumps are not tumors. The second most common one we see is probably splenic tumors. Splenic tumors are generally in large dogs, but they could be in dogs of any age. We also see lymphoma. Lymphoma is a cancer of the dog lymph nodes. We see osteosarcoma, which is bone cancer, usually in large dogs like Dobermans and Great Danes. But again, it could be in a smaller dog as well. Once in a while, we'll see cancer in the urinary bladder, and we might see cancer in the bloodstream, but those are pretty rare. In unspayed male and female dogs, we might see testicular cancer and also ovarian cancer, which is the biggest reason why we spay and neuter our pets.

What are the signs and symptoms of cancer in dogs?

It depends on which cancer you're seeing. If it's skin cancer, then you're going to see little lumps and bumps, and you might notice your dog licking or scratching an area. If it's cancer of the spleen, you might not have any symptoms other than the dog just doesn't seem itself. It might not be eating very well or be lethargic, and a veterinarian might palpate that spleen and notice that it's larger. If you have lymphoma in the lymph nodes, again, if you're palpating the lymph nodes, they're going to see an enlargement. In bone cancer, you'll probably see limping. In urinary cancer, it would be frequent urination or blood in the urine. Blood cancer is a little hard to figure out as an owner, but they might notice their dog is sluggish and not eating well.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of cancer in dogs so important?

It's very important because the smaller the tumor or the first time the dog has clinical signs before they're very debilitated, if we could diagnose that cancer and get it under medical treatment, the prognosis and lifespan of that dog will be longer.

How will a veterinarian diagnose cancer in your dog?

In the case of skin cancer, we'll probably do a fine needle aspirate or a biopsy and a splenectomy. For a spleen tumor, we're probably going to diagnose it with palpation x-rays and ultrasound. If we have cancer of the bone, it might be a bump that you notice on the lung, part of the dog's leg, or limping. If you have testicular cancer, you may notice an uneven growth of the testicles. If you have blood cancer, again, they might just be kind of lethargic. So it depends on where the cancer is, and then we're going to see a clinical sign related to it.

What treatment options are available for dogs with cancer?

We have routine chemotherapy, which involves using chemicals like prednisone and some of the same ones that we use for people, and they are given orally or as an injectable. Then there's also radiation therapy. We also mentioned surgery for skin cancers and splenectomies.

What are some possible side effects caused by cancer treatments?

With chemotherapy, we could see some lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea. With surgery, you're going to have healing time, and there are the dreaded Elizabethan collars they're going to have to wear. With radiation therapy, there might be some rash or something there, but all in all, they do really well. I think the take-home message is if you have diagnosed your dog with cancer or you suspect it, have your veterinarian check them out. I know it's a very stressful time, and having teamwork between your family and the veterinary hospital helps, and the dogs usually do very well.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (410) 657-8024, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media,

Dog Cancer - FAQs

Dr. Mary Beth Soverns
Countryside Veterinary Clinic

Can cancer be treated?

Absolutely. Sometimes we use chemotherapy in dogs. Other times, we use radiation therapy, and sometimes we use surgery. But yes, it can definitely be treated.

In the case of skin tumors. Can they be completely removed?

Yes. A lot of times, we can anesthetize them and remove the entire mass. We send it out for histopathology, and they'll tell us what it is, if we got it all, and what's likely to happen next.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is where we use drugs like prednisone and some others that are designed to attack rapidly dividing cells, such as hair cells and cancer cells. It will eliminate those faster than it will our healthy organ cells.

Is dog cancer treatment painful?

Chemotherapy is designed to put the dog in remission without causing any severe side effects. We also have a lot of medications to counteract them, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

What should I consider before choosing a cancer treatment for my dog?

I would first try to understand what the cancer is, what its name is, what treatment protocol we're going to use, how much it's going to cost, and how many trips back and forth you might need to make to the veterinarian so that you really have a great understanding of what's about to happen. It's great to try to catch it as early as possible and then work together with the veterinary team, and sometimes we have to adapt it. If the chemotherapy made their white cell counts too low, we might skip a week and then start another week. So we'd have to be adaptable to the dog.

What are the biggest factors in the successful treatment of cancer in dogs?

Catching it early, having a great attitude, working together with your team, and trying to do everything you possibly can.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (410) 657-8024, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media,