Top 10 Warning Signs of Cancer in Pets

Lethargic cat
Loss of energy or a reluctance to exercise can be signs of cancer in pets.

In a recent article, I compared the common types of cancer in pets with those found in people. My next step, in this article, is to write about how pet owners might recognize signs of cancer in pets, with a special focus on the common types. Some of these signs, such as weight loss and bad breath, may be indicative of cancer or they may signify other health problems. Regardless, they should always prompt a discussion with your veterinarian.

Here are the ten signs that top my concern list as a veterinary oncologist:

  1. Bleeding or discharge from any place on the body, such as the mouth, eyes or nose, or in the urine
  1. Change in urination or defecation habits
  1. Sores that do not heal
  1. Bad smell from the mouth or body
  1. Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  1. Loss of energy; reluctance to exercise
  1. Loss of appetite
  1. Weight loss
  1. Swellings or lumps that enlarge
  1. Lameness or stiffness

Let’s look at how these signs present with some of the more common cancers that affect cats and dogs.

Breast Cancer

Possible signs: Swellings or lumps that enlarge; sores that do not heal.

In both dogs and cats, breast cancer can be detected by the pet owner during a relaxing session of tummy rubbing and scratching. Breast cancer starts as tiny, pinhead-size lumps anywhere along the chain of mammary glands found on the underside of the chest and abdomen of your male or female dog or cat (although it is rare in males). Once the tumors reach the size of raisins, they can often be felt as somewhat soft to firm lumps or masses. Any lumps or masses in the mammary area should be evaluated by your veterinarian.


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