Frequently Asked Dog Tumor Questions

There are a number of different types of dog tumor diseases that can afflict dogs, no matter the gender, age, breed or size. Early detection means a better survival rate.

What Are the Symptoms of Tumors?

Often the tumor appears as a lump or bump that can be felt by placing the hands over the location. Sometimes the tumors can appear as red, itchy or ulcerated lumps. Tumors can appear anywhere on the body, but usually show up on the trunk or limbs.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody stool
  • Abnormalities in blood clotting
  • Itchiness
  • Coughing
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Labored breathing
  • Duodenal ulcers
  • Irregular heart beat

What's the Prognosis?

Early detection of a tumor usually translates into a better survival rate. Dog owners should inspect their dog for lumps regularly. This can be done during a grooming session, since the owner is already touching the dog.

There are a number of methods to confirm the diagnosis of a tumor. Some of these methods include blood tests, ultrasound, biopsies (samples taken of a tumor), x-rays and the use of fine needle aspirates, which are samples of tumor fluid drawn from the tumor itself. After the removal of a tumor, it is graded to determine seriousness of the cancer. The tumor is also staged to determine the extent of the spread of the cancer. This is especially important with mast cell tumors. Mast cells are part of the immune system, and therefore, tumors of mast cells are especially difficult to treat.

What Are the Treatments for Tumors?

Depending upon the type of tumor and the speed at which it spreads, there are several possible treatments available. Surgery is one option. Removal of the tumor is important in order to prevent the spread of the cancer to other healthy tissues.

Chemotherapy and radiation are usually combined to prevent the spread of the cancer to healthy tissues throughout the body. Sometimes this combination will decrease the size of a tumor, so it can be surgically removed. In the case of fast moving cancers, such as canine carcinoma, the use of chemotherapy and radiation will only improve the quality of life for the dog, but not improve the outcome or extend his life. It will only allow for less suffering.

Chemotherapy can be administered either orally in pill form or injected. Usually a hospital stay is necessary if the treatment requires an injection. Diarrhea, lowered immunity, loss of appetite, lethargy, hair loss and nausea are the usual side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Some of these side effects can be treated with other drugs in order to minimize their intensity.

Sometimes chemotherapy will trigger a remission of the cancer. However, this is usually temporary, so frequent monitoring is necessary in order to resume chemotherapy in the case that the cancer returns. It's important to remember that chemotherapy will not cure cancer, but rather improve the quality of life remaining.