“I just can’t believe we couldn’t tell Missy had cancer,” said my teary-eyed client. “There were no warning signs,” she added, as we discussed the biopsy results after removing a cancerous mass in the intestine.
It is notoriously difficult to detect pet cancer early. Let’s get rid of a common myth: in many cases, pet cancer cannot be detected on blood work.
However, there are 10 things you can look for, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association and theVeterinary Cancer Society. Even if the condition turns out not to be cancer, these signs may be able to detect another medical condition that needs veterinary attention. Also, it is critical to remember that a pet can be very sick “inside,” without showing any of the signs “outside” (as in Missy’s case), which is why I recommend regular, veterinary checkups, ideally every 6 months. Early detection is key when dealing with cancer, so learn to spot the signs I discuss here:
Look for these Signs of Pet Cancer
1. Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
The most obvious sign is a mass (or bump, or lump) that keeps growing under the skin. Any surgeon will recommend that you don’t just “watch it,” but have it removed AND biopsied. If the mass turns out to be benign, that’s great. If it is malignant or cancerous, then at least we know and can discuss what to do next.
2. Sores that do not heal
These sores are typically skin wounds that don’t seem to heal despite antibiotics by mouth or an ointment applied locally. This also applies to no-healing wounds near a nail.
3. Weight loss
This means unexplained weight loss that can’t be explained by a weight-loss diet. Common causes could include a tumor along the intestine, as in Missy’s case.
4. Loss of appetite
Similarly, a mass pushing along the intestines may make your dog feel bad. One of the first things a pet will then do, is stop eating.
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