Pet Cancer Awareness Month

Pet Health and Safety  •  Pam Karkow  •  Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Chances are you or someone close to you has been touched by cancer.  The National Cancer Institute reports that approximately 39.6% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes.  But did you know that our pets can be affected similarly?  According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (, dogs get cancer at roughly the same rate as humans.  Since November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month, this is a good time to brush up on the warning signs of the disease.

The AVMA reports that 1 in 4 dogs and 1 in 5 cats will develop cancer at some point in their lives.  These are staggering statistics.  Knowing the risks that face our pets, it is important to stay up to date on the signs and symptoms of cancer.  Early detection is key when it comes to this rapidly replicating disease, and knowledge is power.

Signs/Symptoms of Cancer in Pets

This list contains 10 signs/symptoms that should have you making a vet appointment.  It is important not to delay if you notice any of these signs.  Your vet can either reassure you that everything is fine, or order tests to gather more information.

  1. Persistent change in appetite and/or water intake.
  2. Lumps/bumps that are changing in size or appearance.
  3. Progressive weight gain or loss (that cannot be explained by change in diet).
  4. Non-healing sore or infection (often a nail bed infection).
  5. Abnormal odor coming from the mouth, ears, or other parts of the body.
  6. Persistent or recurring lameness.
  7. Chronic vomiting or diarrhea.
  8. Persistent or recurring cough.
  9. Unexplained bleeding or discharge (a bloated abdomen could mean abnormal discharge within the body).
  10. Difficulty swallowing, breathing, urinating, and/or defecating.

Tips for Pet Owners

Dr. Patrick Mahaney is no stranger to the disease, as he’s seen his own dog, Cardiff go through surgery and chemo to resolve his cancer.  He even made a documentary called My Friend: Changing the Journey to share his story and to give hope to pet owners dealing with cancer.  He has two important pieces of advice for pet owners.  First and foremost, Mahaney recommends sticking to regular check-ups every 12 months.  He points out that a veterinary doctor’s eyes and hands are trained to seek out problems that may not be apparent to the average pet owner.  He also recommends keeping thorough documentation of your pet’s medical history, including behavioral trends, in an effort to be aware should there be a change.  Some changes in your pet’s behavior may not concern you, but may be a red flag to a trained professional.

Turn to the Specialists

Dealing with cancer in a pet is so very difficult, and it is important to stay on top of current research on the prevention and treatment.  As pet parents, we do our best to protect our pets from any discomfort or sickness, but if the diagnosis comes, we need to know where to turn for the most cutting-edge treatments for our beloved furry friends.  If you do receive a cancer diagnosis for your pet, Mahaney suggests pursuing a consultation with a veterinary oncologist, a specially trained veterinarian who has dedicated his professional livelihood to diagnosing and treating cancer. 

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