Detecting Cancer in Dogs and Cats

Detecting Cancer in Your Pet

Responsible dog and cat owners pay attention to their pets’ health.  One of the best ways to keep track of their overall condition is to pet them.  We call this technique, “Pet to Assess.”  Although simple, touching your animal regularly will help you stay aware of any changes in status.  Some of the most common things pet owners report are lumps and bumps.  Once you’ve found a lump on your pet, what do you do next?  What if you suspect cancer?  Is your pet’s breed prone to cancerous growths?

The AVMA notes the following as warning signs of cancer:

  1. Sores that do not heal

  2. Abnormal swelling that persists or continues to grow

  3. Loss of appetite

  4. Persistent lameness or stiffness

  5. Weight loss

  6. Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating

  7. Difficulty eating or swallowing

  8. Increased lethargy or change in behavior/patterns

  9. Offensive odor

  10. Bleeding or discharge from any bodily opening (examples: nose bleeds/nasal discharge, bloody discharge from ears or rectum, bleeding while urinating, vaginal discharge, blood in saliva or water bowl)

Cancer can be treated in your pets and there are some great facilities who specialize in just that.  NEVOG, or The New England Veterinary Oncology Group is an excellent source if you leave in Northeastern USA.  They have an excellent staff, 2 of which I know personally and would feel very comfortable with them treating my pets.  There are tough decisions to be made when animals have such serious illnesses, so it's important to find professionals that you can trust. 

Here's a personal note from Pet Health Academy co-founder, Cara Armour,

I went to a meet and greet for a new pet sitting client, an adorable 8 yr old Shih Tzu named Snickers. I do my normal pat down, which is certainly more affectionate than a police frisk but nonetheless I am checking the dog I am about to care for EVERYWHERE. When I get to the belly rub I notice a hard, very warm almost flat rock shaped lump under her skin. The owners are leaving in less than a week but had no idea about the lump despite Snickers sleeping in their bed every night. I asked the owners if I could take her to the vet while they were away for two weeks. I made the appointment and my suspicions were confirmed, Snickers had full blown breast cancer.

pet first aid class

Get into a good habit of checking your pet regularly.  Petting your animals not only is a comfort to them and to you, but it's a powerful tool to gauge their health.  Pet with purpose and keep a record of any lumps/bumps you find.  Your furry friends can't tell you when something is wrong, so it's your job to pay attention.

pet cpr and first aid classPictured here is a version of the Pet Health Academy "Pet Assessment" form.  It suggests that you keep a good record of any abnormalities found on your pet.  Because it is dated, you'll be able to accurately track whether or not the abnormality is changing over time.  For more information, visit our website at  If you take our Online Pet CPR and First Aid Certification Course, you'll receive a PDF of this "Pet Assessment" form for you to use on any pets in your care.

Think that cancer is the same for your pet as it is for humans?  Not true!  A veterinary oncologist recommended the following link for pet owners whose pets have been diagnosed with cancer.  Check out the common myths of cancer in pets and their explanations here: