How to spot early signs of cancer in my pet?

Did you know that cancer is the leading cause of death for both cats and dogs? About 1 in 4 dogs will develop cancer in their lifetime and the rate is similar for cats. As with humans, cancer is a disease that develops over time and early detection will mean a greater chance of survival. In this article, we have compiled some red flags to look out for to help you detect early warning signs of cancer in your furbies and get them checked out by a vet as soon as possible. 

Lumps and bumps

Abnormal swelling or a continuously growing mass under the skin. Most of the lumps in our pets are not dangerous, however if you notice a lump - monitor it consistently. Cancer can move very quickly. If the mass continues to grow, change in shape, or does not resolve on its own after a few weeks, it is a sure sign to go to a vet and have it further tested out. 

Abnormal odours and discharge 

Offensive odours from your pets’ mouth or body openings can also be a cause of concern, especially if your pet does not have any dental problems. Cancers originating in the mouth, nose or even anal regions can cause your pet to emit a foul odour even though there are no visual signs of a tumour present. Any abnormal discharge such as pus or blood is also a cause for concern. It is wiser to not assume that these signs are normal occurrences, do visit a vet and get it checked out. 

Changes in appetite and bathroom habits 

A change in appetite can be an indicator of many things as it is very unusual for your pet to stop eating without a cause and especially if they are even refusing their favourite treats! A tumour somewhere in the digestive tract will definitely curb your pets’ appetite. 

Also, if there is a change in your pets’ bathroom habits such as difficulty in pooping, or a significant increase in the frequency of urination, or even blood in the stool or urine - these should cause your alarm bells to go off. Do book an appointment with your vet and discuss all these symptoms in detail. 

Wounds that do not heal 

Skin wounds that do not heal despite medications, ointments and even antibiotics. These can be attributed to infection, skin diseases and even cancer. Skin tumours are often misdiagnosed as infections, so it is best to see a vet and get a professional opinion on wounds that do not heal. 

Persistent fatigue and lethargy 

Is your once active pet now often seemingly tired and lethargic, less willing to play and to go for walks even after sleeping for many hours? This could be a warning sign of something more serious than just general fatigue as a persistent lethargy is often seen in animals with cancer. 

Sudden weight loss

If your pet is not on a controlled diet or exercise regime and they suddenly experienced weight loss, contact your vet and get it checked. A tumour in the intestine is a very common cause of sudden weight loss in dogs and cats. 

The causes of the above symptoms may not be cancer, however they are warning signs of many cancers experienced by dogs and cats. Cancer is a very subtle disease and we are the ones spending most time with our furbies, it is important to be attentive to these warning signs and be aware of your pets’ general health and wellbeing. In the case of cancer, early detection is paramount, keep your eyes open and stay well informed. Most importantly, always shower your pet with the love and affection they desire from you.