What are the signs of dog cancer?
That’s a tough question. There are internal cancers and there are external cancers.
With the external cancers, those that are found in the skin, the space under the skin, superficial muscles, or in bony structures that are close to the outside of the body, many times we see a lump.
(Find a lump on your dog? Get it checked ASAP!)
Sometimes external cancers can show up as an ulcer that does not heal. Other times it can look more like an infection, but the antibiotics just don’t clear the problem up.
But what about the internal cancers?
This is where things get rough. It is hard to look at a loved dog and say whether there is an internal cancer. We have many organs that can be affected. As a matter of fact, pretty much every organ in the body can be afflicted by this number one health problem of dogs.
With this fact in mind, it might be worth while using some computer monitor space on a couple of blog posts, and look at signs of internal organ disease. This way you can develop a framework that may be able to help you identify important changes in your dog.
In The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, we look at the signs of each of the common types of cancer. Here, we’ll go in reverse, where we look at what we might see in a canine family member and see if we can pinpoint the diseased organ.
Let’s start with an oddball, but one that we do see from time to time, and one that is easily mistaken for other medical issues.
Here’s how it looks in a dog:
Most commonly this will be a big dog, over about 45 lbs give or take. German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Schnauzer..something like that.
You might notice that your dog gets a little weak in the hind end. This shows up like a bit of wobbliness, or staggering perhaps. And it kicks in suddenly, no gradual onset.
This weakness can also show up as a sudden difficulty getting up after laying down. Or maybe sudden collapsing on the rear.
If someone were to check the gum color, it might be noticed that the gums looked very pale during this weak episode. Next, after a short while, maybe a day or so, suddenly it goes away.
Look at the gums then, and they are pink once again.
Most of the time this is chalked up as a little stiffness, some orthopedic issue or other. And most times, this would likely be a correct assumption.
But then the problem happens again. Weakness, sudden onset. Wobbly back end or even collapsing.
What is going on here?
Well, this is one of the classic presentations of a bleeding tumor in the spleen, most commonly hemangiosarcoma. This is a very aggressive, malignant tumor. There is a new treatment vaccine that may show some promise on the conventional front in development at Colorado State.
(I have seen encouraging life quality improvements and outcomes with The Full Spectrum Plan and Apocaps in some of these patients.)
But how does this work? How do these tumors in the spleen make a dog behave this way?
Well, the short story is that they bleed. These cancers grow out of the wall of blood vessels, and so often they are filled with blood. Incidentally, these cancers can show up under the skin as a soft or squishy feeling mass, which is sometimes mistaken for a benign fatty tumor. They feel soft because the blood within the swelling is squishy.
This is a good reason to get soft lumps checked.
Anyway, when the tumor bleeds, there is internal blood loss within the abdomen. At this time, the dog gets weak and wobbly. The gums look very pale. Now you can see how it makes a lot of sense.
The amazing thing is that the body is able to take the pooling blood and draw it back into the circulation. This is called autotranfusion here.
When autotransfusion occurs, these dogs get strong again. The hole in the tumor temporarily seals. The gums get pink again. And the problem seems to just take care of itself.
At least, until the next time.
If you have a dog getting wobbly in the rear end, please bring your dog to the vet. Yes, it could be the hips, or the back, but it could also be a whole slew of other things. And one of these is a bleeding tumor in the spleen.
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.