Nobody ever wants to hear that their pet has cancer, and one of the best methods of swaying the odds in your pet’s favor and helping them to have a better chance of survival is to catch it as early as possible. Regular check ups are a good way to give your pet a fighting chance through an early detection, but an exam once a year will still give the disease far too long to progress. The best method for early detection of cancer is to pro-actively look for warning signs, and if you find anything that appears out of the ordinary to make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. The types of cancer that animals are susceptible to are the same kinds that affect human beings, the difference being that the rate of metastization is far faster in animals than is generally seen in humans. Here are the top ten warning signs to look for in your pet that potentially could help in an early diagnosis of cancer.
- Odors that are unusual or overly strong. Any foul or extra strong odors coming from your pet’s mouth, anus or nose could potentially be due to tumors growing in the area.
- Lumpy skin, on the top or underneath. Rub your pet with your hands regularly looking for any lumps or bumps. Cancerous tumors grow very quickly, so any new lumps that you find on your pet should be checked out by your veterinarian immediately. If there is a discharge or blood in the area, you should book your appointment as soon as possible. It is especially important to check your pet behind their ears or on their face, as lumps in these areas are especially important to watch for. Lumps on pet’s bodies is not always a cancerous situation, but any lumps that form have the potential to be cancerous and need to be checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible to avoid them growing.
- Losing weight. Any sudden weight loss should trigger a visit to the veterinarian for a check up, as sudden weight loss should never happen during the course of a normal lifespan of a pet. Gradual weight loss should only happen if the pet has been put on a diet, or the food they have been eating has less fat content. Either way, unless you are trying to make your pet lose weight any changes should be checked out as soon as possible.
- Loss of appetite. Pets will have days when they are not hungry, but any appetite loss that happens lasting more than a day is usually a sign of illness of some kind. Cancer is a potential illness that will sometimes cause appetite loss, but even if it is not cancer, the fact that the pet is not eating should be checked into by a veterinarian because there is generally illness at the root of the cause.
- Being lethargic. Many dogs and cats will spend extended times sleeping or simply laying around, but if you notice changes to the amount of time they typically sleep or play then you will want to see a veterinarian to make sure that illness is not causing their lethargic state.
- Coughing or shortness of breath. Lung cancer is common in dogs and cats, so any increase in the amount of coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath that you notice may be an early sign of cancer. A veterinarian appointment should be made to have their lungs examined.
- Changes in behavior. If your dog or cat has changed in the way they interact with you, the way they walk (limping or hopping,) struggling to get out of bed, snapping at you or growling, then they might be in pain. Although animals are very good at masking when they are in pain, paying careful and close attention to changes in their behavior can detect illnesses like cancer earlier.
- Open wounds or sores. If your pet has a sore or a wound that is taking longer than usual to heal or has any strange characteristics like oozing or infection, there may be an underlying illness like cancer that is the cause. Sores and wounds should be checked by a veterinarian immediately.
- Diarrhea or vomiting. Either of these symptoms is caused by an underlying problem, and both can dehydrate your pet quickly and be potentially fatal. If you notice vomiting or diarrhea take them to a veterinarian immediately. If you notice a bloated abdomen or distention of the pet’s belly, you should also visit a veterinarian immediately as well.
- Paleness of gums. If your pet’s gums or tongue become pale, it us generally a symptom of blood loss. Any time this happens there is usually an underlying cause that needs to be addressed immediately by a veterinarian as blood loss can be fatal within minutes or hours if not treated. It is wise to become familiar with the look and color of your pet’s mouth, so that you will notice immediately if a paleness starts to happen. Cancer is one of many illnesses that causes paleness of gums.
If you notice any of the above symptoms, or any changes in the usual actions or personality of your pet, it is a wise idea to take them to the veterinarian to be checked out as soon as possible. Catching illnesses and diseases like cancer as early as possible gives a better chance of survival and recovery, and can extend the life of your friend. A little checking by a veterinarian can go a long way. If you think that your pet is displaying any of the signs discussed here, or acting in a way that is unusual, contact our office as soon as possible to make an appointment.