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Cancer Awareness Month 

May 1, 2024

May is Cancer Awareness Month. Cancer is unfortunately very common in our furry pals. It’s the primary disease-related cause of death for American dogs and cats. Roughly on out of four of our canine pals are affected, along with one out of five kitties. A local Askov, MN vet offers some insight into this dangerous disease in this article. 

What Causes Cancer In Pets? 

There is no one specific cause of cancer in pets, but genetics and environment seem to be the two biggest contributing factors. As with people, rates of cancer in pets are rising. This is likely due to increased exposure to carcinogens, such as pesticides, chemicals, secondhand smoke … the list goes on. 

How Is Cancer In Pets Treated?

As with humans, the three main forms of cancer treatment in pets are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. However, there are also many new and/or supportive options. These include immunotherapy, cryotherapy, hyperthermia, and radioactive Iodine I-131. Then there’s palliative care, which is focused on keeping the pet comfortable rather than fighting off the cancer. These may also be supported by other treatments, such as laser therapy, nutritional therapy, and acupuncture. Some pets will benefit the most from a combination of therapies. 

Your Askov, MN vet will discuss the options with you after diagnosing and evaluating your pet. 

There are several things to consider here, with the most important being your pet’s quality of life, the type of cancer, and its stage. A dog with a stage one tumor on his leg is probably going to have a much better prognosis than a cat with advanced lung cancer.  

Are Certain Dog Breeds More Susceptible To Cancer Than Others?

Any dog can develop cancer, and at any point in their life. That said, some pups are at higher risk than others. Boxers are actually the breed with the highest likelihood of getting cancer. Some of the pooches that are more likely to get cancer than others include the following:

  • Golden Retriever
  • Rottweiler
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • German Shepherd
  • Great Dane
  • Poodle
  • Beagle
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Bouvier des Flandres
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Bichon Frisé
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Bulldog
  • Bullmastiff
  • Boston Terrier
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Pug

If you don’t know what kind of breed your canine pal is, it’s a good idea to do a doggy DNA test. Knowing if Fido is susceptible to any specific illness or disease can be extremely helpful, not just for this but for other health-related reasons as well. 

What Are Some Common Cancers In Pets?

Just like people, pets can be affected by many different types of cancer. There are more than 30 types of lymphoma alone! 

That said, here are a few of the most common ones:  


Lymphoma affects a specific type of white blood cell, which is known as a lymphocyte, as well as other lymphoid tissues, such as the lymph nodes, bone marrow, and liver. There are over 30 kinds of canine lymphoma. 

With cats, it often affects the kitty’s digestive system. This cancer can be triggered by other medical issues, such as feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus. The good news is that chemotherapy is often very successful in treating feline lymphoma. In one study, about 70 percent of cats went into remission after chemo.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SSC)

This is a cancer of the mouth. Early warning signs include drooling, bleeding, and trouble eating. Surgery is often recommended, however, this is tricky with littler pets, because their mouths are so small.  Other possible treatments include radiation and chemotherapy.


This particular type of cancer attacks the body’s soft tissues. The good news is that it spreads slowly. However, it tends to be quite aggressive. It is fairly common in cats. However, a diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the line for kitties. With proper treatment, cats may live a year or even two, though of course, the exact prognosis will vary from kitty to kitty.

Mast Cell Tumor 

This is a common cancer in dogs. Tumors typically form on or near the surface of Fido’s skin, though they are sometimes found around his eyes, mouth, throat, and spine. Early detection makes all the difference here, as the location and size of the tumor will determine whether or not it is operable. 

Mammary Tumors

Did you know that pets can also get breast cancer? Mammary tumors represent between fifty and seventy percent of neoplasias in unfixed female dogs. They are also fairly common in our feline friends. Unfortunately, as many as 90 percent of feline mammary tumors are malignant, which means that they can spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs and/or lymph nodes. Surgery is often recommended, with some pets benefitting from radiation or chemo afterward.


An other common kind of cancer is osteosarcoma or bone cancer. As one would expect, this particular form of cancer is very painful. Certain dog breeds, such as Dobermans, boxers, golden retrievers, German shepherds, Irish wolfhounds, rottweilers, and Weimaraners, are at higher risk of this cancer. 

Other common cancers include the following: 

  • Mastocytoma
  • Melanoma
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Histiocytoma
  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Bladder cancer
  • Brain Tumors
  • Tumor
  • Anal sac adenocarcinoma
  • Basal tumors
  • Lipoma
  • Liver cancer
  • Nasal tumors
  • Oral melanoma
  • Papilloma

What Are The Signs Of Cancer In Pets?

Different types of cancers will cause different symptoms. There are also some general signs of sickness, which could be attributed to many different causes. That said, here is a list of red flags to watch for  

  • Change in appetite
  • Wound
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Bad Breath (Strange odor)
  • Abdominal Swelling
  • Changes in bathroom habits
  • Lethargy or depression
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Difficulty eating
  • Lameness
  • Foul odor
  • Bleeding or discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Cough
  • Straining to urinate or defecate
  • Decreased energy levels
  • Drinking more or less water

Contact your Askov, MN immediately if you notice any of these. 

What Is The Difference Between Neoplasia, Tumors And Cancer?

Neoplasia, tumors, and cancers are three different things, though there is a lot of room for overlap between them.

Neoplasia is abnormal cell growth. This may be benign or malignant. A tumor is the growth itself. Benign tumors can still be dangerous, depending on their location, but they do not spread through the body. Malignant growths can metastasize, or spread, sometimes very quickly. Cancer is basically a malignant neoplasia.

Many people get the terms neoplasia and cancer mixed up, which is understandable. The difference? Only malignant neoplasia is officially cancer.

How Common Is Cancer In Pets? 

Sadly, it’s much too common. About one out of four of our canine pals will develop neoplasia at some point. Nearly half will develop cancer. That is comparable to the rate of cancer cases in humans. 

We don’t have as much clear data on kitty cancers. However, Fluffy and Fido are susceptible to different types of cancer. For instance, cats are much more likely to get lymphoma than dogs are. 

What Are The Signs Of Cancer In Cats?

Kitties can be secretive about getting sick, so it’s important to watch for warning signs. Here are some of the red flags for cancer in cats: 

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty breathing or coughing
  • Oral odor
  • Bleeding
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Lumps
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Difficulty urinating or defecating
  • Lethargy
  • Lameness
  • Stiffness
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Difficulty with bathroom chores
  • Wound
  • Bad breath
  • Behavior changes
  • Digestive distress
  • Vomiting

It’s also important to watch for general behavior changes. Fluffy may just not act like herself if she doesn’t feel well. A normally cuddly cat may become grouchy or aggressive, while a grumpy cat may start demanding cuddles. Changes in vocalization can also be a warning sign. 

If you notice any of these red flags, contact your veterinary clinic right away. The sooner an issue is diagnosed, the better! 

Treatment And Prognosis For Pets With Cancer

We understand that it can be very frightening to receive a cancer diagnosis for your beloved pet. We wish that we could reassure you that cancer is easily curable, but unfortunately, that isn’t the case. That said, there have been remarkable advances in both human and animal cancer treatments over the past few years, with new trials always ongoing. Many pets do respond very well to treatments.

Every pet is different, so the possible treatments will vary, depending on the exact diagnosis. Your vet will be able to go over specifics with you once they have fully evaluated your pet and gotten results from any recommended tests or screenings. 

Make An Appointment At Your Askov, MN Pet Clinic

Have you noticed any of these symptoms in your pet? Are you concerned that your furry pal may be at risk of cancer? Contact us, your local Askov, MN animal clinic, today?