Lung Cancer in Dogs: An Overview

Lung cancer in dogs is a potentially fatal diagnosis for a dog that can be devastating for the pet owner. Most common in older, medium to large dogs, the disease is often arduous to treat because canine cancer symptoms are difficult to detect in the disease's early stages. When it is caught in time, treatment for lung tumors in dogs can be costly.

Canine Cancer Symptoms

Lung cancer in dogs is not often caught early in the progression of the disease, because the symptoms of canine lung cancer are difficult to distinguish from otherwise benign maladies. These symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Chronic cough, with or without mucus and blood
  • Appetite loss
  • Lameness
  • Difficulty breathing

Causes of Lung Cancer in Dogs

There is no conclusive evidence that points definitively to the causes of canine cancer symptoms. However, veterinary research has shown that canine cancer symptoms may appear after:

  • Exposure to secondhand smoke - As with humans, exposure to secondhand smoke from tobacco may play a role in the development of lung tumors in dogs.
  • Life in an urban environment - Dogs who spend most of their lives in urban cities may have a slightly higher risk of developing lung cancer.

Types of Lung Tumors in Dogs

There are two primary types of lung tumors found in dogs, both of which can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous):

  • Metastatic - Malignant metastatic tumors start off as cancer cells in other parts of the body (such as in the bones) that spread to the lungs; fungal infections from the rest of the body may also cause benign metastatic lung tumors.
  • Primary - Tumors that originate in the lung are considered primary lung tumors; the most common of these tumors is the malignant carcinoma.

Weighing Your Options After Diagnosis

Lung cancer in dogs is not a hopeful diagnosis. Because treatment for lung tumors in dogs is one of the most costly veterinary procedures, your vet may suggest humane euthanasion. Should you decide to treat your pet, you must weigh the chances of your dog's survival accordingly. Do not forget also to consider the quality of life to which you dog must become accustomed should he or she survive the treatment.

If your dog's lung tumor has shown to be primary, your dog will have a slightly greater risk of surviving surgery to remove the tumor (and will have a smaller risk of the cancer returning quickly). If your dog's lung tumor is metastatic, it will be nearly impossible for your dog to come out of surgery cancer-free, as the cancer has already invaded the animal's entire body. However, with either diagnosis, and with complete or partial lung removal, your dog may survive another few years.