Signs of Dog Cancer and Decompensation - Dog Cancer Blog

Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

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Signs of Dog Cancer and Decompensation

When a person hears the news that a loved dog has cancer, it can be very, very difficult to accept.  Especially at first.

One reason is that it seems like everything was fine just a little while ago, or maybe even currently.  Perhaps a lump was noticed, or maybe a little limp, or a slight cough, or it could have been that there was a lab test that lead to the diagnosis. Maybe there is nothing immediately apparent, from your point of view, that would lead one to suspect cancer.

How is it possible that a dog can seem totally happy, eating, drinking, moving around, being social, and have cancer at the same time?

Well, before you do anything, consider a second opinion.  Any professional vet will be okay with this, and it wise to double check to make sure the dog cancer journey is a path you are on.

What about those dog cancer warning signs though? Doesn’t cancer mean there is weight loss, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, thirst changes, or other signs?  If you were to look at some of the lists you see online, you might also expect things like bad breath, yellowing of the skin or eyes, abdominal swelling, difficulty breathing, spontaneous bleeding, difficulty breathing, or an unusual odor.  Right?


You are the recipient of incorrect information here folks.

Here’s the real story:  these dramatic signs (and we talk about “signs” in veterinary medicine, not “symptoms” like physicians do) in actuality are not seen until very late in the disease process of cancer.

These are not the typical signs of cancer at all.  They are the signs of something different, a certain tipping point in the development of cancer.

The lists that you read elsewhere are actually the signs of a stage called “decompensation“.  The clearest definition of decompensation lives on Wikipedia:

“Decompensation is the functional deterioration of a previously working structure or system.”

The focus here is on the breakdown of normal functions.  When a medical problem is compensated, this means that the body is correcting the effects of the  problem so it can function normally.   These dogs are acting normally while they have cancer. Our dogs have lots of safety features built in to their physiology.  If something is a bit off, these mechanisms kick in to adjust so the body works properly.

However, these built-in safety systems have a limit.  They correct up to a certain point, and then the problem becomes too much.  Suddenly, there is a shift and the body has an often sudden change which can be seen from the outside as a “sign of cancer”.  This tipping point is called decompensation.

The fact that decompensation exists one reason cancer is hard to accept.  It explains why a dog can have cancer but not be showing any signs of it (decompensation has not occurred yet), and it also explains why the signs of cancer can appear rather suddenly out of the blue (the dog’s body was not able to compensate for the disease effects any longer).

The take home message is this: test healthy dogs for cancer.  Do fine needle aspirates, biopsies, blood and urine tests, X-rays of the chest, and ultrasound the abdomen as your dog ages.  Start in the last quarter of life at least annually, if not more frequently.  You can get a list of average life expectancies in the Dog Cancer Survival Guide based on either breed or size (for mixed breed dogs).

Best to all,

Dr D

About the Author: Demian Dressler, DVM

Dr. Demian Dressler, DVM is known as the "dog cancer vet" and is author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog's Life Quality and Longevity.

  • Anita

    The last quarter of life is too late to be doing these tests. I’d say the last half of a dog’s life is more appropriate. My dog, Casey, was a yellow Labrador Retriever who died at the age of 8 after a 2 1/2 year battle with mast cell cancer (diagnosed when she was 5 1/2, and which is not what killed her) and hemangiosarcoma (diagnosed August 2009 when I found a lump on her neck — she collapsed on December 13, 2009, and was euthanized). Casey was on chemo (cyclophosphamide, Piroxicam) and had had a clean ultrasound on October 3rd. Her expected life span was something like 12-14 years. Pictures of Casey can be sen at She was a Therapy Dog at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati. It was a huge loss to a lot of people when she died. I am now writing a book on her life to raise awarness of hemangiosarcoma.

    Anita Eisthen

  • Patti

    My yellow Labrador Retriever, Ian, was also taken by hemangiosarcoma at age 11. At the advice of the vet at the time, we opted for no chemotherapy. I then acquired Ian’s half-brother, Conor, (the result of cryogenic artificial insemination). Conor is also a yellow Labrador Retriever. His cruciate ligaments blew out in both knees at 18 months, then he developed iris cysts and was diagnosed with mast cell cancer at age 9. As much as I hate to admit it, it just seems like the entire gene pool of many of these breeds is now corrupt. It’s heartbreaking. Where did all of these maladies come from all of a sudden? Is it the flea/tick preventatives? Vaccines? Foods?

    • Dr. Dressler

      Dear Patti
      well, to be honest I devoted the first part of my book to answering that question. Aside from the obvious breeding and in-breeding issues (it may be time to start thinking about getting away from propagating certain breeds…you heard it here first folks and don’t start throwing tomatoes quite yet), we live in civilization. Part and parcel of this choice and inevitability are the diseases of civilization. We are seeing the effects of modern society on our dogs as a reflection of ourselves on earth.
      Dr D

  • Dr. Dressler,

    Months ago, I took my golden retriever in to have a lump in his abdomine
    checked out. My vet told me to keep an eye on it after his examination. He
    thought that the lump was most likely a non cancerous tumor. After a couple
    months went by, I noticed that the growth had got quite a bit bigger, so I took
    my dog in again. My vet tried to use a needle test to try to extract a sample,
    but the growth was so firm, that he could not get the needle to penetrate, so
    he made an incision instead. After viewing the growth from inside, he told me
    that my dog had a growth called fibrosing streatitis myositis. I was then sent
    to a specialist who did a much larger incision to extract some inner samples
    of the growth to be sent out to a lab. The biopsy came back as spindle cell
    sarcoma. A surgury was recommended to remove the tumor, but I was told
    it would be risky because of the tumors size and location. I decided not to have
    the surgury performed. Weeks have passed now, and the tumor is quite huge
    and firm. It fills in both sides of my dogs abdomine, and underneath. His hind
    leg is now suffering from swelling and lameness. Because the tumor is seeking
    more territory, it is now pressing against his organs and stomach, causing total
    lack of appetite, and the ability to hold solids down. My vet recommended a
    half cup of ensure twice a day. I also add some ground up chicken or beef to
    the ensure. I have to totally feed him with a spoon, then holding his mouth some
    what shut se he does not spit the food out. He is also losing weight quite rapid.
    (I forgot to mention something earlier). Please read on. I was told that the tumor
    is now starting to press against my dogs areas, that will soon effect his ability
    to urinate and pass a bowel movement. This is the latest from my conventional vet.
    My dog will not eat on his own anymore, but he is drinking water. I’ve tried Artemisinin,
    cantron, milk thistle, proteo enzymes, IP-6 Inositol, liquid herb detoxifiers, multiple
    vitamins, fish oil, and so on. I considered giving him neoplasene taken orally, but
    was told that neoplasene could cause complications because of the tumors size,
    and possibly leave a hollow hole once the tumor was attacked. The cancer is far
    along, and I’m feeling like my options are running out. I’m considering 2 last options.
    Apicot seeds, B17 along with B15, or Essiac tea capsules, ( Ojibwa herbal blend),
    or something from the cancer fighting strategies site. I would deeply apprieciate
    your opinion on these options, and my general email. I’m also concerned that
    this form of cancer may be so far along at this time, that no magic bullet or
    supplement will work, and that maybe I should just see my vet to give him a
    peaceful exit, but at the same time, If i can find something out there that will
    shrink the tumor and give my dog a little longer to live, It’s worth pursuing.
    If not, I have to say that I’ve at least given a good fight concerning my dog.

  • Susan

    To everyone out there helping their dogs fight cancer – – I’m with you. Don’t stop. Don’t stop questioning and fighting and doing everything you can. Sometimes our wonderful vets look at the inevitability of a disease and approach us with the “it’s kinder to realize the truth now than to live in false hope” attitude. But you know what? Our Shadow was given 2-3 weeks to live, and we had seven wonderful months of him being very happy, active and loved. Our vet was amazed that he was doing so well. Shadow still left us much too soon, but he taught us to learn all about a good diet, natural supplements, and making sure he had joy around him every day. Please read Dr. Dressler’s book – the knowledge is priceless for all our animals, not just those with a diagnosis. Don’t stop. Don’t stop. Don’t stop. When your vet gives you an opinion, ask for a test to show you the proof. If your gut feels that you want to know more but you don’t want to question your wonderful vet – QUESTION. You are the only voice your dog has, and any vet worth the qualification should respect your need to KNOW.
    For those of us who have loved and lost, the fight continues. Stay on board. Let’s help everyone else out there with encouragement, love, and as much support of Dr. Dressler’s research as possible. Dog cancer should not be a death sentence. Humans are beating the odds because of knowledge; early detection and good treatment. Our dogs can do the same. My Shadow taught me so much, and I will not let him be a single chapter in my life. He’ll be here to help me help others.

  • Susan

    Phil, I feel for you. If you can get the mix of ingredients contained in Apocaps, please try them. Our boy did so well on them. I can’t help but wonder if you can get to another vet who would be willing to try surgery. If your dog is getting weaker, surgery won’t be an option much longer. But you have to decide how you feel about it. If a vet understands you want to try to remove all or part of the growth to give your dog relief, knowing the risks, your opinion should be respected. Your dog (I don’t know his/her name) may not make it out of surgery, but then again, it may. It’s a fine line and a scary decision. Bless your heart, I’m thinking of you both. Please let us know your dog’s name so we can send some special thoughts out.
    Bottom line, what is your dog telling you? You know him or her better than anyone. I think the thing we all hate the most is to think that our dog is holding on just for us. But when you look in those eyes you’ll know what he or she wants. Without a doubt, your dog knows how much you love.

  • Susan, Thank you for your message and kind remarks. My male Golden
    retrievers name is Gibson. He is 7 years old. I’m from Garden city,
    Michigan, in Wayne county. I’m not exactly sure what Apocaps is, but
    I’ll look into it. Feel free to email me.
    God bless Phillip

  • eva

    My 9 1/2 yr old Rottie, Boots has lymphoma. We didn’t notice until he started losing weight rapidly. He is on prednisone to shrink the lymphoma, It has worked a bit, he’s gained a little bit of weight this week. We opted for no chemo. It’s also in his blood. He’s doing ok, he has a good appetite & still runs at the park. We take our 3 dogs to the park every day…if it doesn’t rain too much. We’ll keep him with us till he doesn’t feel well. He loves people & has always been very confident. I’ve been giving him more omega 3 & vit c also. I am going to make sure my other 2 dogs have regular check up, they’re both 5yrs old.

  • All of you should try Transfer4Life supplements. This makes the dogs
    already amazing immune system work five times better…all the steroids, radiation, chemo, accelerate the situation. These supplements are by 4LIfeProducts. ….this is not your typical “western” method of treating cancer. One thing is what all vets recommend.. take your animal off of ALL GRAINS. I am currently
    doing this. My dog had a tumor removed on his leg 8 months ago…
    so far.. I don’t know if this will work, but I am hopeful and will not subject my animal to the cruelty of chemo and radiation.

    • Dr. Dressler

      Dear Sandra,
      I was interested in checking out, but could find no data in the portion of the site tabbed “science”. Can you provide the readers with some objective information about this product? Specifically it’s application to cancer (preferably dog cancer, but human is okay too..).
      They would be very interested to know!
      Dr D

  • gloria alexander

    I too feel it is extrememly important to no have any grain…my dog was diagnosed with bladder cancer 2 years ago last September. God knows how long she had it before I realized she had blood in her urine. She had 8 rounds of chemo as well as Piroxicam daily. She is still the Piroxicam. I had her on Hills Cancer ND at the time…high fat is very important…no, no, no carbohydrates…NONE…NO PEAS, AND NO CARROTS…turns to sugar…bad carbs. ONLY BROCCOLI OR GREEN BEANS. I supplemented her and still do with 4,000 units of Omega 3,6,9. 1 Mannose cap, 1 cranberry cap, this helps to prevent the urinary infections.
    I believe it is truly a miracle that she is still cancer free, I am so, so lucky to have her….I treasure every moment I have with her. She is the glue that holds me together through life.
    I now have her on only raw ground beef,(once in a while cooked chicken) I buy the best I can, mix with 2 tablespoons of cottage cheese, 1 1/2 tsp. of wheat germ, 1/3 can of salmon or fresh salmon I grill and only a hand full of Orijen kibble—grain free for the crunch she needs for her teeth. NO NO GRAINS!!!!

  • MMN

    Research Curcumin. It stops cancer growth, and is miraculous.
    Suzanne Summers even wrote about it in her book Knockout….

  • Sara

    Our sweet yellow lab Ben was diagnosed with what we believe to be hemangiosarcoma. He was seen at the vet in April due to lethargy, not eating and just “not acing himself” for one day. One day. Bloodwork showed low platelet levels, abdominal xray showed a very large tumor on his spleen and another large growth near the liver. I was not at all prepared for this. At 11.5 we decided not to do surgery, I scoured the internet and learned that 2/3 of splenic masses in large breed dogs were sarcoma and that surgery offered a mean survival of 1-3 months. It was a gutwrenching decision not to do surgery. We had another 6 months w/ him – he passed peacefully on October 30. Not sure why I’m posting other than to share Ben’s story and learn as much as I can about canine cancer. He left us too soon. I’m struggling with grief and guilt…missing my best friend.

    • Dear Sara,
      so sorry to hear this sad news. Thinking of you.

  • Gloria Alexander

    In 2010 I wrote above about my dogs battle with Bladder cancer and that she had recoved and was cancer free. (Carboplatin/Piroxicam, 5-6 Omega 3 caps. daily) raw diet, but now I read raw is not good for dogs w/cancer.

    Unfortunately 1 year ago she got a melanoma on her tongue and had to have surgery, and with clean margins was put onthe “vaccine” Protocol. Due to my financial inability to continue with the “every 6 month” vaccine the cancer came back with a vengence. She has lumps every where. Xrays show she has 3 tumors in her lungs.Today she has begun to cough….
    She received the vaccine, which is suppose to boost the immune system. Then she was put on Palladia, for almost 2 weeks, showing no improvement. Now her oncologist gave her the first Carpoplatin treatment on Monday and this Monday, one week later, I am to continue with the Palladia.
    Dr. Dressler, please tell me what protocol you recommend as far as the chemo is concerned. What really is the drug of choice. I know I am losing my best friend, but I don’t want her to suffer. I think the chemo has effected her appetite this time. She seems to only want to eat liverwurst, I use that to put her fish caps in.

  • nicole

    my 11 year old dog a 140 pound lab just had this diagnosed through needle aspiration! Spindle cell Sarcoma he has another lump om right shoulder a week later almost same size it is ridiculous 🙁 It seems aggressive and fast and he is 11 and huge we are just feeding him steaks and taking a ton of walks! I am giving my dog that surgeon said he can not help the best last few months. it is hard and i keep sleeping on floor every night while my boy has the couch but I am not going to put him through unnecessary treatment to make myself feel better!

  • aJ

    Do lots of spindle cells in a growth always mean cancer ? the vet did a needle biopsy and looked at it under the microscope yesterday and said he could see lots of spindle cells but they could turn into any type of tissue and be harmless, so he couldnt say what it was but advised having the lump removed within 2 weeks and sending it away to see if she should have chemo, he wouldnt say any more until the biopsy comes back.

    I think he was trying to not scare me too much but it has left me a bit confused as nothing i’ve read about spindle cells has been good

  • Ruthie Orndorff

    Our 7 1/2 has a 2inch tumor it is cancer I started giving her Omega 3,6,9 and Vita c
    d,e she is in no pain I took her off her diet because she lost 10 pounds in 3 months
    so I gave her back her 1 cup and just not alot of people food she is eating Squash, and green beans she is happy no pain and is feeling better can she make it my husband will not go in debt over our dog she is on her own for getting well and no steroids marty said it’s a band aide. is that ok

    • Dr. Demian Dressler

      Dear Ruthie,
      I am sorry about your dog. I am not quite sure, though, what the question is. Are you asking if prednisone is okay? It can be okay…everything has both desired effects and also side effects (not desired). I might be thinking of some of the other steps in the Guide- Apocaps, Neoplasene, and others…
      Dr D

  • mrogers

    You are right about cancer suddenly seeming to appear. Our beautiful 9 year old yellow Lab seemed fine until 3 weeks before we had to have him put to sleep. He was getting thinner and his back legs were shaky, and he was always such a big strong muscley boy. He was diagnosed with a liver tumor and a week later he could keep no food down or water. We had to make the decision not to have him suffer and starve to death in front of us. Afterward our vet felt another larger tumor in his stomach which must have grown enough to prevent digestion in just a few days. We thought we would have him at least a few years longer. We miss him so much! We are thankful he didn’t seem to suffer more than those last few days and we could all be around him and care for him that week.

  • kcarabello

    A few days ago I, also, had to put my lab to sleep. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make. He would have been 12 in a few days. I feel so guilty, even though, I know it was the right decision. He hardly could have walk and always he always sounded like he had to cough. He had a hard time barking the last few days. He woke up one morning and started throwing up and collapsing and couldn’t catch his breath, we rushed him to the vet, at that time his tongue was blue, they game him a steroid shot, and took x-rays and his lungs were full of cancer and she believed his hard time walking was due to cancer. We were treating him for arthrisis. I know it probably was the best gift we could of given him to make him no longer suffer, however, It is so hard. He is all I think about and wonder if there was anything else I could have done. Even at the very end, he was kissing and cuddling with me. I look back at the last few weeks and realize he wasn’t feeling well, like trouble barking, walking, and sometimes crying thru the night, we tried everything for him. But the pain and guilt are unreal. We loved him so much 🙁

    • Dr. Demian Dressler

      Dear Kcarabello
      A little video maybe that might help for you:

      Dr D

  • kcarabello

    Thank you Dr. D, I appreciated it.

  • ES

    To everyone that has a dog fighting cancer, I highly recommend K9 Immunity Plus. They are flavored wafers that you feed your dog 1-3 times a day, depending on the size of your pet. My dog was diagnosed with bone cancer in early May once we noticed his leg has swelled up and he was limping. I immediately researched and bought the supplements. So far he is doing well! We opted for no surgery or chemo since he is 12 years old and chemo weakens the immune system. We also have him on a grain-free diet and are using the Taste of the Wild brand. I researched and learned that without surgery, dogs with bone cancer live 1-2 months but my dog is entering his fourth month and is still full of energy, plays with his toys and loves to eat. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but I believe these supplements are helping keep my dog with me and everyday is an extra day that we get to spend with him.

  • nh.hiker

    Our 12 year old lab passed on this night. 3 weeks ago she had a slight limp on the back right. Vet gave her some pain meds and said if she didn’t feel better in a few days, we should xray. also said its not uncommon for labs her age to have cancer and a bone break can be an indication She seemed to recover 100 % and was doing well.. this afternoon she slipped on the floor. The ER vet took xrays and she had a clean break of the femur. At first they talked about surgery and plating the break. The poor girl had endured two TPO’s on her hips at 7 months and a TPLO on her left knee at 9 years and thrived. Weve been crossing our fingers on the last knee staying healthy. When they xrayed and said it could be plateable we were overjoyed on to then have the chest xray done that showed advanced cancer. they gave her 2 months without the break which was not going to be fixed now. we know we had longer than we should with a Yellow with so much osteo trouble. She had a good 12 years and we will miss her much longer than that

  • My @10 year old (rescued) female Lab, Addie, suddenly developed severe diarrhea a few days (no blood), but still very strong appetite, no vomiting, etc. Her liver numbers are always elevated a bit because of the Rimadyl she’s been on, but the vet’s second-in-command said the chilling words ‘RIDDLED WITH CANCER” yesterday, because her abdomen was enlarged. Xray showed nothing. Gums, breath, eyes are clear. Her energy is strong (even though she’s a big girl, having been a backyard breeder before she came to us). We’re now taking her to an internist DVM to figure out why the diarrhea and to see if the other vet’s diagnosis is remotely accurate. Prayers, please. She’s our big yellow baby girl.

  • Chris

    My family has had our dogs died from cancer. the first one was a golden lab he was about 11 years old. I remember he couldn’t eat for two weeks and i think moth or two or more after that, the vets said he had cancer but they didn’t see it when they went in the first time.
    R.I.P Luc

    Thunder my mom got remarried and he was a rotwiller he had cancer on his butt and they tried to removed it but they put him to sleep it came back.
    R.I.P Thunder

    Harley was a yellow lab we had him since he was a puppy about 2004 My dad got him for me, He was put to sleep at the age of 8 years old. He didn’t have any signs of any cancer the last two weeks i also went to hang out wit him.

    He was not feeling good this week and he was taking to the vets and this poor dog didn’t deserve to go this soon. I was hoping for two more years at least.

    R.I.P Harley

    the other dog my mom had was a rotwiller that not died from cancer but everytime he was eating it just come out the other end he couldn’t gain weight so it was a birth defect or something.
    R.I.P Bud (can’t spell his name bearrine or something like that.

  • Karen Reinhold

    My little Pomeranian just passed away a couple of hours ago. I feel a hole has been punched in my chest. I didn’t think he had cancer. He started to not want to eat last week, but up until that time he was his usual playful self. I took him to my vet because I thought he might have gotten some fertilizer on him that my apartment put down. My vet did some blood work, and his liver results showed really high. The first vet said they couldn’t feel any lumps. They gave me some medication for his liver, but it didn’t seem to help. He would drink water, but didn’t want to eat. I took him back to the vet and they did an xray. They found a mass the size of a grapefruit. Just as we were discussing what to do, a nurse called the doctor and said my dog was dying. Within about a minute he was gone. I always took him to the vet for his regular shots etc. I just don’t know why it was never found earlier. I’m going to miss him so much!

    • Dr. Demian Dressler

      Dear karen
      I am so, so sorry to hear about your little pom..
      I really am sending you my condolences and am so sorry.
      Dr D

  • Lori Swanson

    Our jack Russell terrier was diagnosed with cancer under the tongue it was on the very back of his tongue underneath .Found out on A Wednesday He had his entire tongue removed on Friday we are now faced with how to get him to be able to eat. He wants to eat but the food falls right out of his mouth our vet assures us that he will figure this out any suggestions???

  • Magda Gryczmanska

    Dear Dr. Dressler

    My 11-year old greyhound developed a mole just above his elbow which grew rapidly over last couple of months and is black. I have also found a pinhead sized mole which looks exactly as the now black mole did in the beginning (mauve coloured). He chewed on the black one and when I took him to the vet he was prescribed antibiotic and cream as it looked infected and bled. It healed after a couple of days. The vet confirmed that the growth is located in the skin – she was able to put her fingers underneath. When I discussed the options with the vet who thought it could be a wart or a tumour she said that the mole was hard and therefore not suitable for biopsy. I have read on the Internet that biopsy is a standard procedure and no one mentioned that a biopsy cannot be taken from a firm growth. Should I insist?

    • Dr. Demian Dressler

      Dear Magda,
      no, one can biopsy a hard mass. Perhaps she was talking about a fine needle aspirate?

  • Lisa

    I have 10 year old neutered male pug. he has had Addison’s disease since he was 1.5 years old. His Addison’s is well controlled with .3 ml percorten every 28 days and .5 mg. prednisone every other day. We found a mass that suddenly appeared on the sheath of his penis. I took him in the next day and the vet removed it. It came back as a Grade 3 MCT with a high micotic index. It was removed with clean margins. he was on benadryl and tagamet before we found the tumor, so we continued with it. My vet ordered Kinavet and in the mean time we did a high dosage prednisone treatment. he has now been on Kinavet for three weeks (100 mg. daily, he is 19.2 lbs.) and Apocaps (2 caps twice a day). We have found no new growths. he had bloodwork done a week ago and it was good. But last night he stopped eating. he would not take food or his pills. He throws up undigested food from nearly 24 hours ago, which makes me worry he has pancreatitis or something. My vet says to give him a break from the Kinavet and see how he does. When he last threw up it was orange, I assume from the curcumin in the Apocaps. How well does Kinavet play with Apocaps and are either contraindicated in dogs with well-controlled Addisons disease?

    • Dr. Demian Dressler

      Hi Lisa
      Sorry to hear about your pug’s mct. 🙁
      how has the response been to stopping the kinavet?
      We have not had problems with addisonian dogs btw..
      let us know,



  • Dawn Reeves

    No one can diagnose my 10 year old Cockapoo. Signs include lethargy, anorexia, weakness, subjective fever. Initial lab (which was normal 3 weeks prior, aside from globulin) shower WBC 13, Hct 33, nml platelets, albumin 1.9, globulin of 5 (had been 5.4 3 weeks before and gone unnoticed by Vet). Did abdominal u/s, found nothing but some chronic renal changes. U/a with 1+ protein, globulin electrophoresis is polyclonal. Ascites started developing. She developed respiratory distress and some purpuric type lesions on her back along the spine. Hct dropped to 26; plts stable, albumin stable. Was started on high-dose Pred for 3 doses then I stopped it bc she wasn’t better at all and I was worried about infection. Started doxy (rapid tick assay all neg). About to tap ascites but resolved (48 hours after Pred and 24 hours after doxy). So was restarted on low dose pred (anti-inflammatory dose at 0.5 mg/kg/dose). 24 hours later dramatically better. Several small nodules in her back leg – that they were unsuccessful at aspirating – have now virtually disappeared and feels like only a small lymph node.

    My fear is that she has an occult malignancy and we are only temporizing the situation


  • gia holdridge

    my dog died yesterday of dog cancer r.i.p hershey a black pug that was 5 was the most loving dog ever

    • Susan Kazara Harper

      Dear Gia, I am so sorry that Hershey moved on. I truly know your pain and the empty space in your heart and your home. It will take a long time to mourn, and to turn the sadness of these last months into smiles as you remember all the years of joy you shared. It really stinks, I know, to lose him after only 5 years. Perhaps there is a higher reason, but that may come later. Please don’t make his memory a sad one. When you are able to, celebrate him.

  • Curt

    Last weekend my 2 year old yellow lab seemed perfectly normal except for the fact that he had about 5 accidents in the house over the .weekend which was very uncharacteristic. So Monday morning I called the vet to make an appointment thinking he must have a bladder infection or something of that sort. My appointment was for Wednesday morning. By that time I had noticed and mentioned to the vet that since I had originally made the appt. on Monday he had gotten kind of mopey and depressesed looking. So they ran blood test and a urine tests both came back normal. So then they said they wanted to do a thyroid test but the blood had to be sent off to another lab for that one. So we went home and waited for those results, they came back normal. By Thursday night he just laid on the floor and didn’t want to move and actually even threw up as he was just laying there and didn’t lift his head to do so. He eventually got up and went in his kennel and stayed in there the rest of the night. when I went to go get him Friday morning I had to lift one end of the kennel and almost dump him out. I eventually got him to stand up and walk outside and go to the bathroom. After that I took him back to the vef where they kept him there for the day and ran some more test like tick carried diseases and Addison’s disease., again all normal. they also redid the blood tests and found his blood sugar had dropped very significantly since Wednesday, I think they said the level should be around 120 and his was about 30. so they put him on a IV and were able to get the blood sugar level back up to normal but still no change his behavior. Since it was a Friday At the end of the day I had to pick him up and take him to emergency care since they are open nights and weekends. By the time I picked him they had to help me carry him to my vehicle and they came out to my vehicle at the.emergency clinic and took him in on a stretcher. Saturday I had gotten a couple calls from the vet saying they are not finding any reason for his comditionn and wanted to do a ultra sound. Got a call back from a tech saying the vet wanted to come In and talk to him. Sure enough the ultrasound revieled a grape fruit size tumor in his admonmen. So long story longer I had to make the hardest’ saddest decision ever and say goodbye. Again this was a 105 pound 2 year old strapping dog who exactly 2 weeks before was at the lake swimming and running around with absolutely sign of anything being wrong. I hope nobody else ever has to go through but just in case if they do I hope they come across this story and it can help them diagnose it quicker then I dead because looking back the ultrasound was $150. If I/the vet would of started there it would saved about $2,000 in other test and overnight care, etc..

    • Susan Kazara Harper

      Curt, we are so, so sorry to hear your story, and sad for your shocking loss. Thank you for sharing it, because as you said it may help someone else. It sounds like what happened occurred so quickly that there was very little you could have done even if the mass had been discovered quickly. But you did your best at every stage for your boy and he knew you were looking out for him. Please take care.

  • Kim Adams

    My GSD, Janko will b 2 in Sept. Just a week ago he started limping, like he hurt his paw. It gets worse, his leg started to twist towards the outside n it looked like his shoulder was sticking up….Off to the ER, Wednesday, I thought he slipped his leg out of socket. ..xray said no, but she found a lump on his shoulder…He needed to see a surgeon..I called my vet n got him in the next day, Thursday, since they said they could do biopsy’s n things…What a waste of critiical time…I now had to wait til Monday to see a surgeon…He does n exam n gives options n what he feels is wrong…Hemangiosarioma. .Never even heard of this..Tuesday he has MRI n biopsy, showing the mass to b 23cm x 11cm..I m devastated…im loosing my best friend…Today is Friday, but very early but I m waiting on results as my dog is going down hill fast…I dont want to make a choice until I kno if it is or isnt cancer…But I dont want him to suffer…idk what to do…he just lays around barely walks,eats or drinks…his breathing is rapid as if he just ran a marathon, but sometimes its very shallow…im hoping its the meds making him so out of it n not his life slipping away from me in my sleep….

    • Susan Kazara Harper

      Take a deep breath. I can feel your panic and that’s completely understandable, but don’t count Janko out yet. You need to get a confirmed diagnosis. It’s unusual that something like this would come on so suddenly if it’s a malignant tumor, but nothing can be ruled out. Hemangiosarcoma is cancer of the lining of the blood vessels, and while it CAN occur anywhere in the body that has blood vessels, the more common sites are the spleen and heart… big, blood working organs. Certainly it’s possible elsewhere. And yes, it’s possible the meds that he’s presently on are causing the rapid breathing and other symptoms you are seeing. You didn’t mention what he’s been given, but please phone your vet back and report these symptoms…. they may need to modify or change his medications. That rapid breathing is no good. I recommend you do that today. If hemangiosarcoma IS confirmed, you can still fight. There is a recommended chemo protocol that may apply… it’s being used more and more with this type of cancer. Called metronomic chemo. But we’ll get to that when you have your diagnosis. GIven the location and that the lump is affecting his leg, you may find that the oncologist (and please try to get an oncologist involved in this to get a complete diagnosis) recommends amputating the leg. This isn’t the end either. Any worries about this, check out But please, please take a breath, get yourself together and let Janko know you’re with him and will do everything needed to help. He is young and strong, so that’s definitely on his side. Download the Dog Cancer Diet from the blog page, and assess his food. He needs real, healing food to help his body cope. Don’t hesitate to call our team on 808-568-3252 if you need to hear a real voice and go through any further information. All the best to you both.

      • Kim Adams

        I m still freaking out…biopsy came back fibrosarcoma stage 3…now he started breathing thru his nose tonight…what could that mean…they believe that he should b put down soon. If they remove the tumor/leg, that the cancer would b back within a month. I dont want my dog recovering from a loss limb for the remainder of his time..I feel like that is just too much on him…I m so torn right now….I dont want to lose him…Its not fair..I know I cant afford the therapy, chemo/radiation…I wish I could take his place!!!

  • Susan Kazara Harper

    Did you get in touch with your vet about his symptoms and his medication? Have they told you whether the fibrosarcoma has metastasized? I really, truly know how scared you are, but you can only help him by getting a hold of yourself. Deep breaths. Do you have an oncologist for Janko? You need a specialist, someone who has a lot of experience both with cancer, and with amputation. Get your information, find out what can be done, balance that with what you can afford. No, it’s not fair, but focusing on that is not helping you or him. Remember, YOU decide for him. Others have their training and their opinion, but Janko does not have an expiration date carved in stone. He’s still with you. Monday morning, new day. You can do this. You can do this for him.

    • Kim Adams

      ive been to the vet a bunch of times…im up all night watching him breath…so afraid he wont wake up with me the next morning…I dont want him to suffer but I dont want to lose him either…I tried to get an oncologist appt, but they didnt have anything til July. I feel like he may not be here come July…the past 2 days he hasnt been eating much, he drank alot yesterday and even played a little in the backyard…this morning he ate very little and puked about a half hour later…I dont want to give up on him but I know I dont have much more money to keep helping him…And that SUCKS, he shouldnt have to die bcuz I cant afford the rest of his treatment…I flip flop about the different avenues to take, do I want to go with amputation and mayb have a few more months, in which he would be miserable recovering from such an extreme procedure. Is that fair to put him thru that for my selfish reasons…Do I wait and put him down b4 he gets too bad..there are no other options…I pray every day, I even went n got holy water for him…some days its like he just doesnt feel good and he will get better and then it smacks me in the face….im going to lose my best friend…my vet is coming to the house thurs. I trust and value his oinion, he is in it to help animals with his whole heart, not for the money. If he tells me he thinks its time I will be saying goodbye to Janko..I kno its my choice and I dont like the choices ive been giving.

  • Susan Kazara Harper

    Kim, Please look at If amputation is an option, and the cancer has not metastasized to other parts of Janko’s body, it can be your best option. And dogs do not generally have the problems that humans do with amputation. They already have 3 other legs to rely on, and if he’s limping and not using the leg, he’s already rehabilitating himself. He has youth on his side, and if there is no cancer spread and you’re able to take the cancer away with amputation, you could potentially have many years ahead of you. But Kim, you’ve got to get hold of yourself. The panic and worry are understandable, yet they are not helping Janko. No matter what happens in the coming days, the best thing you can do for him is to give him the just of your calm, loving energy. It’s great that you have a vet you like. Remember, the decisions are yours, and Janko will understand.

  • Jessica Rossler

    My beautiful 8 yr old siberian husky Lilly died this morning from lung cancer, we thought we had more time with her, the cancer came on suddenly, back in November we took her to vet because she wasn’t eating, and loosing weight, he ran blood test and found she had a tick born illness, so she was put on antibiotics. Within the last month, she was getting worse while on them. We had them lower the dose. And she still wasn’t eating, we had to force feed her. She drank fine. Went to the bathroom fine. Then towards the end of November she went down hill. We took her back to vet, because she started having breathing problems. He found a growth in her back leg near her mammary gland. And was going to biopsy after she was done with antibiotics. So while at vet second time. He wanted to check via X-ray how she was, well needless to say, he xrayed, and it wasn’t good, he pulled my bf in back, and showed him the horrific X-ray. She had 6 or so golf ball sized tumors in both lungs, and the vet said prognoses wasn’t good. She was end stage. He didn’t give her long about two -three weeks tops. So she was put on several medicines, and a pain pill. And she was still up and around, very weak wobbly, and still drinking but not eating. So we force fed her, from a syringe the last few days. She had very minimal accidents. Her breathing kept getting worse. So she was given a diuretic. We have two other husky’s at home. And one is her twin sister. We are beside ourselves with guilt, and anger, and we can’t understand how the cancer came on so suddenly. We only had her, and her sister for four years. Before we rescued them, from an abusive situation, they were neglected. And we worked really hard to get lilly to trust again. We gave her all the love and affection we could, took care of her best we could. And we were going to have her put to sleep on Saturday. But God had other plans. And she died at home in our kitchen. I had sure I was there, as I told her we would be with her every step of the way. It’s hard to say goodbye. She was our little girl out of our pups. But witnessing her take her final breaths, and the pool of blood that surrounded her mouth, is something I hoped I would never have to see. I wish we could have done more for her, but chemo wasn’t an option as she was so weak already, and surgery wasn’t an option because she was end stage. So we did the best we could by keeping her comfy, and loved. Should I feel guilty? I’m new to dog cancer, I watched pups I had growing up die. But nothing like this.

    • Susan Kazara Harper

      Jessica, everthing about this was horrible. Yet you can not feel guilty. You did everything for her, took her to the vet responsibly at each stage. Sometimes it’s just a lousy, lousy road. When we grieve we beat ourselves up. The time will come when you can make yourself start to remember the years of fun and joy. Yes, I know you wish there could have been more. But you know what, you could have missed them all, too, if you hadn’t had her at all. Know that she was totally happy with you. Dig out the great photos, and please, please believe that the last weeks were just a drop in the bucket of her very good life. Honor her by remembering her well, and maybe get out there and become a voice for dog health and cancer awareness. My two boys put me on this path. I miss them so, but know that what I learned with them can go on to help others. Take care of yourself,

      • Jessica Rossler

        Thank you so much, Susan! I hope with time we all start to feel better again. She was such a wonderful part of my family. That’s wonderful that you’ve become a voice for dog health and Cancet awareness. I’d love to do that. How do I go about it?
        Thank you again for your kind words, and I hope you have a very merry Christmas and happy joyous new year! Take care


        • Susan Kazara Harper

          Jessica, Bless you for wanting to get involved. First, take time to heal. Get through the holidays gently and move into the new year. If you feel motivated to help, there are oh so many ways to share the awareness and knowledge. You’re most welcome to get in touch if you can contribute to this small and passionate team. Give yourself breathing room first, ok?

          Another may come who will need love and help, and you will honor your girl if you find you are able to share her place of joy. All the best, from all of us.

          • Jessica Rossler

            Thank you so much Susan! It’s not been a week yet. And myself, bf, and daughter are still sad. I’d love to contribute. My other two huskies have been taking things ok. They gloom about the house too. Maybe one day, we will have three again. God bless, have a wonderful and merry christmas, and new year!


  • Jeff

    My yellow lab just turned 8 on feb 6th. He’s been sick for over a month now. All his symptoms cam on very suddenly: vomiting, unable to keep food down, minimal water intake, appears very lethargic at times but has had days where he is his old fashioned self. He has lost a lot of weight from not being able to keep food down. Brought him into the vet 4 weeks ago, all tests were normal despite these sudden symptoms. The vet gave us some moist dog food in which he ate very little. Symptoms were not getting better so I brought him back a week later. X rays were His WBC count was “slightly” high so the vet said possible infection or possible cancer but that she “didn’t have a solid answer” as to what was wrong with my dog. Vet gave us antibiotics to use for a week, they didn’t do anything for him. Another symptom I’ve started to notice is that he will ‘shiver’ in his abdominal region at times but its not consistent. As I stated before, he still has his good days where he is his normal self but he’s only losing more and more weight. I’m at a loss of what to do… some days he looks like he is suffering. I could go back to the vet but I’ve been there twice and paid a lot for the answer of “im not sure I have an answer for you. Any suggestions on a direction to go at this point would be greatly appreciated. Maybe some supplements or new food to try? I’ve read that K-9 immunity plus can help manage symptoms…I’m just not sure what to do. This came on so suddenly and I can’t imagine my life without my best friend.

    • Susan Kazara Harper

      Hi Jeff,
      I know this is worrying, and no solid news from the vet doesn’t help. Shivering can indicate discomfort, and ifit’s occasional it’s harder to pin-point. He definitely does not sound happy. What are his poos like? I’m guessing they are a bit lose and if he’s not eating he’s probably not pooing regularly. ?? Does his abdoment seem distended? Is he unhappy when you gently rub his belly? If his tum is tight, distended or he doesn’t want you near, it might indicate there is something going on there. There are so many directions this could go. The first, most basic thing you can do is to give him a week or very simple, very REAL food. Any digestive upset needs a period of bland, useful food. Have you tried to give him meals of cooked brown rice and cooked chicken with chicken broth? It’s the easiest to digest. If you get some boneless, skinless chicken breasts put them in a big pot of water, simmer until cooked, you’ll have plump, moist chicken meat and loads of broth. Cooked brown rice helps bulk it out, but don’t use instant rice. He needs solid nutrition to help regain his balance. You can also scramble eggs and feed them alone, or with the other food. 7-10 days of this food will give him strength from simple, good nutrition, and probably let you know whether it’s a temporary tummy upset or not. I know you’ve spent a lot at the vets, but if you’ve not gotten any more than you’ve shared here, you need a different vet. You may want to try a week of good food as above, and call around to other vets. Remember that they work for you, and you own those test results. If you find a vet you like the feel of, ask your present vet to either give you, or send to the new vet, the x-ray and blood tests and records of treatment. Giving him a week of solid, digrestible real food will tell you a lot. Smaller frequent meals, just as we’d do if our tummy was upset. Start there and let your boy tell you what’s happening by his response. Good luck! and give him a big cuddle from us.

  • Candice

    This makes sense. We had no idea our dog had oral melanoma until her cheek had swelled to a bit larger than a golfball, but before that she had some bad breath which we had brushed off as just old age and her teeth not being in top notch shape. Her vet before this was discovered had actually said soft food can sometimes cause bad breath so to put her on dry food and it would help that. We did as he recommended, but it didn’t help too much and then it started to get worse and finally her cheek started swelling as her breath continued to deteriorate into smelling like death. It happened pretty quickly too and that is when I got very concerned and took her back in to be tested and then we found out she had oral melanoma. They didn’t tell us a stage though, but am sure she was probably around a stage 3 when we took her in. I just feel guilty I didn’t take the first sign of worse bad breath as a cue because if we had of then we may could have extended her life beyond what we are doing now with just prednisone alone. I had been told all my life that brushing an animal’s teeth was not required and their mouthes kept themselves clean in general until recently I started to hear you should brush your dog’s teeth and if not that then check their mouth fairly often and if not that then the vet should at their routine visits. I had absolutely no idea of any of that and her prior vet did not offer to check her mouth and they were mad expensive so we changed her to a new vet who found the cancer and told us all of this. I wish I had known way sooner. Too little, too late in this instance, but if we ever do get another loving pet I will be vigilant about this sort of thing.

  • suzy000

    My five year old blue eyed Malamute (I know…disqualifying but she was what we wanted….YEP….she is my avatar) was diagnosed with a malignant Mast Cell Tumor yesterday the 28th. You could have knocked me over with a feather when the Doc told me after aspirating the lump on her backside near her spine. I had just told the Doc that I was getting ready to buy a used a treadmill for Mishka to help her lose the weight she put on during the summer months. (She HATES hot weather) but out of caution, I just wanted to verify that the fatty tumor was just that. She came back in the room no longer smiling and said,,,,,”Don’t buy that treadmill”. I instantly became numb. Now we are facing surgery, probably radiation and then more surgery. I refuse to put her through chemo. Radiation is bad enough. This is going to get expensive but I cannot just let her die. She was a gift for my son on Christmas Day when he was 13. He had just lost his Uncle (pancreatic cancer) in June and my brother was like a Father to him. He has a deadbeat Father. Mish filled that void and helped him cope with the loss of my baby brother and now at eighteen…..I cannot stand to see him lose another without giving it my best shot. I have heard of those gofundme sites but it is probably not for pets. Sigh…..what does a single working Mom to do when something like this gets dumped in her lap and I just got the 1st semester of college paid for. I’ll tell you what we do…we work harder and find a way. There is always a way….one just has to be willing to take that leap….I will leap all day if I can protect my family from harm or distress. Well….enough about my challenges…..there are people with many more challenges and on a greater scale than what we are experiencing. They too need our help……and our prayers.

  • Jade Brunet

    My dog has been having a hard time sleeping and we are wondering if she could be sick. Thank you for informing about the signs of dog cancer. I did not realize that loss of appetite, vomiting, and weight loss were not actually seen until late in the disease process of cancer. We will pay a visit to our veterinarian to solve any possible problem early on.