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Cancer in Dogs and How to Treat it

Updated on February 23, 2010

Cancer in dogs is a very scary and real danger.  It’s tough to think of our pets as being prone to the life taking disease but it’s necessary to become educated and understand what causes and how to prevent dog cancers from occurring.  It’s a sad fact that cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs and that dogs are 6 times more likely to get cancer than cats.  The good news is that over half of these cancers are curable if caught early enough and that knowing the signs and symptoms of dog cancer will go a long way to prevent dog cancer.

There are many forms of cancer that is commonly found in dogs.  Many are benign (such as the fatty tumors older dogs get) however there are some that are malignant and therefore make any type of tumor or skin abnormality necessary to get checked out.  The biggest cancers that are normally found in dogs are skin cancer, breast cancer and bone cancer.   Each type of cancer can have several different forms which can make treatment difficult.  It’s important to get the tumor tested to identify what type of cancer your dog has.  Once you’ve identified what type of cancer it is you’ll be better equipped to treat it.

The best way to treat dog cancer is to avoid it.  Being aware of some of the environmental factors that cause cancer will allow you to take steps to prevent your dog from being exposed to them.  For instance, dog skin cancer is primarily caused by excessive exposure to the sun.  While some dogs are more prone to skin damage (such as the hairless breeds) all dogs have sensitive areas and shouldn’t be left in the sun for prolonged periods of time.  Another way to prevent cancer in dogs is to have them spayed or neutered.  The chances of a dog getting breast cancer are reduced up to eight times just by having them spayed because it reduces the hormones that tend to cause breast cancer.  Having good oral hygiene will help decrease the chances of getting oral cancer.  Prevention isn’t always easy but it’s one of the few things that we can control.

The unfortunate truth is that you can take all the steps in the world to try and prevent cancer in dogs but sometimes it will just happen.  Certain breeds are predisposed to cancer and because of genetic inbreeding sometimes a dog’s lineage will be more inclined to develop cancer.  If your dog is identified as having a type of cancer there are several treatment options available.  Depending on what type of cancer and how severe the cancer a simple surgical procedure might be able to remove the cancerous cells.  There is also a vaccination that’s being tested which will boost the dogs immune system’s ability to destroy cancerous cells.  Speaking of boosting the dog’s immune system, it’s important that the dog gets proper nutrition in order to maintain their strength and ability to combat the cancer.  Even if your dog has more advanced stages of cancer there are treatment options such as radiation therapies and drugs available that have had amazing successes. 

No matter what type of treatment option you choose to pursue for your dog, it’s important to be educated and get as much information as you can.  There are many great resources online that can give you a solid foundation for you to discuss a game plan with your veterinarian.  With a little bit of hard work and a solid plan for treatment you will be able to help defeat the cancer in your dog.

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