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Cancer pointers and your dog's health

Like cats, dogs are susceptible to many types of cancer but unlike many other animals, dogs can suffer the same strains as humans. Canines, for example, are the only non-human species where spontaneous prostate cancer occurs.

Hopefully, your pet will never suffer from a serious illness, but we’ve compiled a short guide to help you identify when your dog may be unwell and needing intervention. As with many diseases, a speedy diagnosis of cancer can be the difference between life and death, making it all the more important to look out for any abnormalities with your four-legged friend’s body and behaviour. This insight also features the experience of one of our blog readers whose dog suffered from cancer.

  • When doggy breath is the norm it might be difficult to distinguish a strong odour from their usual emissions, but it’s worth trying to sniff out any unusually strong smells coming from your dog’s mouth or rear, as they may be the result of a tumour.


  • Try and get into the habit of checking your pet’s skin monthly too. Don’t forget to check behind the ears and around the face. No matter how small, all new bumps and lumps, especially if they are bleeding or releasing discharge, need investigating by a vet. Cancer can grow very quickly too.


  • Many health conditions cause appetite loss, including cancer. If your dog has lost interest in eating it’s worth getting them checked over by a vet. Sudden weight loss is an almost certain sign that something is wrong, unless your dog is on a diet.


  • Anyone who has owned their dog for a good while will be able to quickly recognise changes to their normal exercise and sleep pattern, making it easier to spot lethargy and prolonged periods of rest, both of which can be tell tale signs that something is amiss.


  • If your dog is snapping more than usual or spending more time away from you than they usually would, they might be troubled by pain from an underlying condition. Pay attention to how they walk and play. If you notice any limping or struggling, get them to a clinician.


  • All of the symptoms listed here should be followed up with a visit to the vet, especially if accompanied by vomiting and diarrhoea, which are common indicators of poor health in their own right.
  • Open sores or wounds that aren’t healing as quickly as they should, can often indicate a serious underlying medical issue. 
  • Get familiar with how your dog’s mouth looks when they’re in good health. Cancer is one of many illnesses associated with very pale gums, which are a sign of blood loss. 


  • You might want to hone in on their breathing too, as dogs can get lung cancer. Coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath after very little exercise, might be down to diseased lungs.
  • Like humans, pets are not 100% fit and raring to go each and every day, but it’s worth looking out for some of these common symptoms of health problems. If in any doubt about your dog’s behaviour, call a vet and get them checked.

Jayne May, one of our blog readers, has kindly shared her experience of when her 12 year-old Golden Retriever Zoe, was diagnosed with cancer. Jayne said: “When I was told by our vet that Zoe had stage three Lymphoma I was numb. I couldn’t focus on what he was saying after the initial diagnosis.

“My first thought was around whether Zoe would die and my second thought turned to why my dog had to get cancer? We will never have the answer to my second question but we do have hope.

“Our vet recommended chemotherapy. Thankfully we took his advice and after an emotional roller-coaster for our family, Zoe emerged with the all clear. That was almost two years ago and she is now approaching her 14th birthday.

“Our girl remains on a very small dose of chemotherapy but she is happy, has a great quality of life and the energy of a four year-old.

“Dogs as young as three months old have been diagnosed with lymphoma but there is hope. I have set up a fundraising page for the Animal Health Trust (AHT). It’s called Zoe’s Journey and money raised will go into helping the AHT research the cancers that are claiming so many dogs’ lives.”  Please visit Jayne’s page, https://www.justgiving.com/jayne-May1/ to make a donation.

For more information on cancer click here

20 May 2015

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