9 Signs How to Know if Your Dog Has a Tumor

Due to the greater care we give to our dogs, the increase in their life expectancy and the advances in the field of veterinary medicine, tumors in dogs are, today, a much more common diagnosis than just a few years. Genetic factors but also bad life habits can develop them.

In this article, we are going to review the most common types of tumors in dogs, how to know if your dog has a tumor and, in general, the treatments most used to fight cancer.

how to know if your dog has a tumor

Cancer in Dogs

Before talking about tumors in dogs, we should keep in mind some basic aspects to understand what cancer is. We can make a first approximation by distinguishing those tumors that we are going to detect externally, that is, those that we can see as lumps on or under the skin, from those found inside the body.

While the former can be noticed by palpation or revision, the latter are usually discovered in advanced stages, when the dog already presents symptoms such as weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.

The tumors appear more frequently in middle-aged and older dogs. A good part of them, as we have said, are susceptible to detection in veterinary check-ups, hence, at least once a year is recommended, especially after seven years of age.

Types of Skin Tumors in Dogs

In this section, we will deal with skin tumors in dogs, which present as the main symptom, as we have already mentioned, more or less large lumps. We highlight the following as the most common:

Papillomas in dogs

They are benign, wart-like tumors caused by canine oral papillomavirus. More common in older dogs, they can be removed if, due to their location, they are problematic.

Lipomas in dogs

These benign tumors are made up of fat cells, being more common in overweight dogs. Their appearance is rounded and soft, they grow slowly and can reach considerable dimensions. There is a malignant variant called liposarcoma.

Histiocytomas in dogs

These tumors are fast-growing and can appear in young dogs, between 1 and 3 years old. They are observed as small, hairless elevations, with the appearance of buttons. Most disappear in a short time.

Mast cell tumors in dogs

They are tumors of mast cells (cells of the immune system) more frequent in brachycephalic breeds such as boxers and bulldogs. They appear in older dogs and about half are malignant. They usually present as multinodular, hairless and reddened bumps. They are capable of releasing substances that cause gastroduodenal ulcers.

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Squamous cell carcinomas in dogs

They are related to exposure to ultraviolet radiation and occur in areas of the body with less pigmentation such as the abdomen, nose or lips.

Melanomas in dogs

They appear in melanin-producing cells. They are dark nodules that are located in areas such as the eyelids or the mouth, where they are usually malignant.

Types of Soft Tissue Sarcomas in Dogs

These tumors in dogs are malignant and have different origins. There are breeds predisposed to suffer from them such as the German Shepherd, the Boxer or the Golden Retriever. They appear both on the skin and on the organs, and we highlight the following as the most common:

  • Hemangiosarcoma – affects cells in the lining of blood vessels.
  • Osteosarcoma – is a bone tumor that we will see in more detail in the next section.
  • Lymphoma or lymphosarcoma – appears in lymph nodes and organs with lymphoid tissue such as the spleen or bone marrow. It affects middle-aged and older dogs. In addition to symptoms such as apathy, anorexia or weight loss, we will find enlarged nodes. Other clinical signs depend on its location.

Types of Bone Tumors in Dogs

They can be both malignant and benign. Among the first, as we have said, osteosarcoma stands out, which can appear at any age and with a greater predisposition in large dogs. These types of tumors in dogs occur most frequently on the front legs, but they can also affect the hind legs, ribs, or jaw.

As symptoms of tumors in dogs of this type, we can see that the dog limps and the paw swells in a painful way. They usually spread to the lungs.

On the other hand, among benign bone tumors are osteomas, on the head and face, and osteochondromas, which affect young dogs in the ribs, vertebrae, extremities, etc.

Types of Tumors of the Reproductive System in Dogs

In this section we highlight the following tumors in dogs:

Testicular tumors in dogs

These types of cancer in dogs are more common in older males and occur mainly in testicles that are retained in the groin or abdomen instead of descending into the scrotum. For these cases, neutering is recommended as prevention and treatment. Find out more in the article: how to make a dog’s testicle drop.

Transmissible venereal tumors in dogs

This tumor is rare, but it is contagious through contact between dogs, sexual, but also from bites, licks or scratches. They look like cauliflower and, in addition to the sexual organs, they can be seen on the face, mouth, nose, etc. Although they are not considered very virulent, they can reproduce by metastasis.

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Vaginal tumors in bitches

They appear in whole and elderly females. They present spotting, they urinate frequently, they lick each other and you can see a mass that comes out through the vulva. It is essential to go to the vet to diagnose and treat it.

Ovarian tumors in bitches

They tend to be rare and are almost always asymptomatic. There is a malignant variety that can be associated with ascites because it spreads through the abdominal cavity.

Breast tumors in bitches

These tumors in bitches are very common, especially after six years of age, so sterilization is recommended. They usually affect more than one breast and are detected by palpation. Metastasis usually occurs in the lungs, seriously worsening the situation, which is why you should go to the specialist in case of noticing lumps in the bitch’s breasts.

Leukemia in Dogs

This cancer affects blood components in the bone marrow, especially in middle-aged dogs. It produces nonspecific symptoms such as fever, anorexia, weight loss or anemia.

Both in this case and in the rest of tumors in dogs, tests such as blood tests, ultrasound, X-rays or computerized tomography will be carried out for the diagnosis. The biopsy can confirm the diagnosis.

How to Know if Your Dog Has a Tumor

Throughout the article, we have mentioned the symptoms of tumors in dogs depending on the type of cancer that is suffered. However, here we will make a recap of the most common as a summary:

  • Lumps or bumps on or under the skin. Although they are not always indicative of the formation of a malignant tumor, it is important to analyze them.
  • General discomfort.
  • Loss of weight and appetite.
  • Tiredness.
  • Signs of pain such as whining when feeling an area or, apparently, for no reason.
  • Coat in poor condition or hair loss.
  • Bleeding wounds like ulcers.
  • Appearance of secondary infections due to the weakness of the immune system.
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea, with or without the presence of blood.

As can be seen, most of the symptoms are typical of multiple health problems, so it is not surprising that it takes time to detect cancer. For this reason, we remember, it is essential to go to routine veterinary visits, since it is here where the specialist can quickly detect any anomaly. In the next section, we will see the treatment options for tumors in dogs.

How to Treat Tumors in Dogs

Currently, there are different treatments available to eliminate cancer in dogs, so if you are wondering how to treat tumors in dogs you should know, first, that it is possible but not in all cases. The best results are obtained by combining several, personalizing the treatment and starting early.

Among all the treatments that exist, the following stand out as the most effective:

  • Surgery – The tumor and surrounding tissue are removed to prevent recurrences.
  • Radiotherapy – involves irradiating the tumor, which requires specific technical means.
  • Chemotherapy – aimed at controlling metastases, usually requires a combination with another treatment to obtain good results. The drugs used have side effects to take into account.
  • Immunotherapy – still in development, its function would be to stimulate the immune system.

As we said, it is important to note that not all tumors in dogs have a cure, especially those that develop metastases. For this reason, it is so crucial to go to the vet with any symptoms, since early detection can be the difference between eliminating the cancer or not.

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Home Remedies to Treat Tumors in Dogs

Unfortunately, there are NO home remedies to cure cancer in dogs. The most appropriate thing for these cases is to always follow the instructions of the veterinarian, who we recommend that he be specialized in oncology. He will be able to tell us the life expectancy of the dog with cancer, the most indicated treatment for his type of tumor, as well as the chances of a cure.

As a complement, a quality diet that helps strengthen the dog’s immune system is always more than recommended. Likewise, offering all our love and support will make the animal feel more animated and, therefore, with more desire to fight against the disease. Without a doubt, these will be the best remedies that we can apply.

In addition to the aforementioned, relaxation exercises that keep the dog calm, massages in the affected areas or foods with antitumor and immunostimulating properties assist the immune system and help alleviate symptoms. Of course, although they have antitumor properties, we remember that they do not dissolve cancer, but what they do is promote treatment, prevent its development and alleviate the signs. Again, the vet will be the one to tell us the best diet for the animal.

Most Common Causes of Cancer in Dogs

Most of the cells in the body reproduce throughout the life of the individual. This duplication produces the same cells that will continue to perform the same function. This process is controlled by genes, and any alteration in them results in cells that replicate at high speed and form masses that end up displacing healthy cells. This is how tumors are generated in dogs.

The alterations responsible for these mutations are multiple since the genes can be activated or deactivated by factors such as diet, stress or the environment. Thus, in human medicine, some carcinogens have been identified that will increase the risk of cancer. For example, ultraviolet rays are associated with skin cancer, X-rays with thyroid cancer, tobacco with lung cancer, some viruses with sarcoma, etc.

In dogs we know that the appearance of mammary tumors is related to hormones of the sexual cycle, hence early sterilization has a protective effect.

Important: This article is for informational purposes only. We always recommend that you go to a trusted vet with your pet first.