Types of Cancer in Dogs

A cancer diagnosis in their four-legged friend comes as a shock to dog owners. No wonder: half of all dogs over ten years of age die of a malignant tumor. But what types of cancer are there in dogs? We provide information about which cancer diseases can affect dogs.

What Types of Cancers Do We Differentiate?

In medicine, it is customary to name the types of cancer according to the tissue affected or the type of tumor. The latter determines the question of what type of cancer cell we are dealing with.

The most common cancer cells in dogs are:

  • Adenocarcinomas
  • Basaliomas
  • Fibrosarcomas
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma
  • Hemangiosarcomas

So we can speak of “skin cancer” or “basalioma of the skin”. However, diagnosing cancer can be difficult. Because of this, the vet needs tissue, which sometimes requires an operation. This does not always make sense for old and weakened animals. Therapy depends on both the localization and the type of tumor in question.

Canine Skin Cancer

Older dogs in particular are prone to skin tumors, i.e. the formation of new tissue on the skin.

The good news is that around two-thirds of all dog skin tumors are benign.

Examples of benign tumors are warts or small nodules filled with fat, so-called lipomas, and basal cell tumors. Mast cell tumors are among the most common malignant skin tumors in dogs. Boxers in particular are affected by this. Canine skin cancer can also present in the form of squamous cell carcinoma. Since metastases rarely occur, the chances of recovery are great. The prerequisite for this is that the vet can completely remove the carcinoma. Melanomas can be benign or malignant. Melanomas in hairless areas in particular turn out to be cancer. They tend to spread into the lymph nodes, abdomen, or lungs.

In Females: Cancer of the Milk Ridge and Ovaries

The most common cancer in females is cancer of the milk bar. If tumors occur here, they are malignant in half of the cases.

Castration before the second heat reduces the risk of this disease. Ovarian cancer is less common in females. Signs of this are water retention in the abdomen or hormonal disorders. During an operation, the vet will often remove both ovaries and the uterus.

In Males: Cancer of the Prostate and Testicles

Prostate cancer mostly occurs in older, medium to large male dogs. The first signs are increased urination or constipation and loss of appetite. Unfortunately, prostate cancer often metastasizes in dogs. Testicular tumors develop especially when the testes have not descended on both sides when the puppy is a puppy. One or both egg-shaped glands are then stuck in the abdominal cavity or in the inguinal canal. Tumors develop faster here due to the higher ambient temperature. Neutering cannot protect the dog from prostate cancer. However, removing unsaved egg-shaped glands before the age of two will save the dog from testicular cancer.

Canine Blood Cancer

Blood cancer is relatively common in dogs compared to other cancers. Mostly it is a malignant lymphoma, which is also known under the name lymphosarcoma or leukosis. The tumor attacks the lymphocytes and thus occurs primarily in the lymph nodes, spleen, and liver. If there are tumor cells in the blood, it is leukemia. For blood cancer, chemotherapy can significantly extend a dog’s life, depending on the stage of the disease. Up to a quarter of dogs can be cured with chemotherapy.

Canine Bone Cancer

We speak of bone cancer when tumors develop on the dog’s skeleton. These tumors are primarily osteosarcomas. They destroy the bones, causing lameness and pain. Osteosarcomas form metastases. If it is not possible to amputate the affected limb, radiation therapy can alleviate the symptoms.

Brain Tumors

Older dogs in particular are affected by brain tumors. Neurological failures such as swaying or seizures and sudden changes in behavior can be signs of a brain tumor in the dog. Depending on where the tumor is located, the dog can go blind. It is often not possible to surgically remove the brain tumor. In many cases, radiation can give the dog a few months or even years with a good quality of life.

Canine Nasal Cancer

Nose cancer or cancer of the nasal cavity is uncommon in older dogs. It is accompanied by a cold, sneezing, or deformation of the skull. Tumors in this area are usually malignant. Operations are seldom possible there. In some cases, radiation can give the dog more life.

Dangerous Spleen Cancer in Dogs

In contrast to cats, spleen tumors are more common in dogs. The majority of these are hemangiosarcomas that tend to metastasize. If it is detected early enough, the vet can remove the spleen and then perform chemotherapy. Older shepherds are often affected.

Canine Lung Cancer and Kidney Cancer are Rare

We speak of lung cancer when the tumors of a cancer disease first appear in the lungs. In this case, these are primary tumors in the lungs. Secondary tumors are metastases, so cancer has spread. In animals, it is not always possible to determine where a tumor first appears. Lung cancer is rare in dogs. Metastases in the lungs do not.

“Kidney cancer” with tumors originating from the kidney is also very rare in dogs. But other types of cancer metastasize into kidney tissue, so the kidney tumor can be noticed first. Pancreatic cancer is also one of the rare canine diseases. In principle, as in humans, a tumor can form on any organ or part of the dog’s body.

Signs of Cancer in the Dog

The sooner cancer is recognized in dogs, the better the chances of recovery!

If you notice one of the following signs, you should go to the vet with your four-legged friend:

  • lumps under or on the skin;
  • weight loss or sudden gain;
  • suddenly different, bad body odor;
  • bleeding from the body orifices;
  • the dog appears apathetic and powerless;
  • heavy breath, cough;
  • wounds that don’t heal.
Alice White

Written by Alice White

Alice White, a devoted pet lover and writer, has turned her boundless affection for animals into a fulfilling career. Originally dreaming of wildlife, her limited scientific background led her to specialize in animal literature. Now she happily spends her days researching and writing about various creatures, living her dream.

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