You know about the signs of cancer your doctor tells you to watch out for — an irregular mole or a suspicious lump. But do you know the signs in your pets?
Not just a two-legged problem, cancer is all too common in cats and dogs. Veterinarians diagnose about 6 million cancers a year in dogs and another 6 million in cats.
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“Animals can’t tell us what they’re feeling. We have to be observant,” says Brian Collins, DVM, chief of community practice at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, NY.
Lumps, Growths, Tumors
A lump isn’t automatically cause for alarm. Middle-aged and older dogs often get benign fatty tumors. But a veterinarian should check any lump on your pet. If you’ve been watching one and it changes, that warrants a vet visit, too. “It may start to grow more rapidly, become [an open sore], start bleeding, or seem painful because the animal is licking or chewing it,” Collins says.
A red, teary, or bulging eye might be harboring a tumor. Tumors can also cause symptoms of an ear infection. “The ear might be uncomfortable. The pet might be shaking its head or clawing at the ear. There might be discharge or an odor,” Collins says.
A suddenly expanded belly without any other weight gain could be a tumor. Unexplained weight loss could be a complication of cancer as well.
Cancer can cause changes in your pet’s behavior or habits, such as less appetite, chronic vomiting or diarrhea, coughing or labored breathing, more thirst, and change in food preferences. Take notice if a once-active dog suddenly spends all his time lying around. Limping could be a sign of bone cancer. Straining to pee or other changes in pee patterns, such as more volume or frequency, might be a red flag, too.
“Your pet’s personality might seem to change. Maybe they become more withdrawn, act more irritable, or hide. They might develop new quirky behaviors. These could be potential signs of a brain tumor,” Collins says. Cancer-related personality changes could also include pacing, agitation, and wanting to go outside more.
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