Detecting Cancer In Senior Dogs

Our GatorAs our 95 lb. Weimaraner ages, his body frequently displays new tumors, or masses.  Every week, it seems like we find another lump.

When the growths first began, our veterinarian removed 3 of them.  But surgery for Gator is difficult for all concerned.  Gator is crate phobic, having broken all his baby teeth trying to escape from his puppy crate.  It doesn’t take much to put him into full panic mode.  Confinement turns him into the dog from hell, and we avoid it whenever possible.

His wonderful veterinarian, Dr. Donna Brinck, understood Gator’s phobia.  Before his surgery, she placed him in an empty treatment room with frequent visits from staff.  He wasn’t happy, but he didn’t panic.

After the surgery, Gator was placed on a dog bed in Dr. Donna’s office, where he was monitored until he became lucid.  For several hours, Gator followed his wonderful veterinarian around the back office and was watched over by other staff members until time for us to take him home.  Veterinary clinics do not generally provide such services to all patients, or they would never get any work done.

Gator’s tumors were benign, but the surgery was such an ordeal that we decided not to subject our dog to that in the future.  Plus, his beloved vet moved out of state.

When Gator goes in for veterinary exams, the new tumors are biopsied and so far, they have proven to be benign.  If that ever changes, some big decisions will have to be made, because our boy is 10 years-old, an advanced age for such a large dog.

We examine our dog frequently, looking for any irregularities.  Early detection and treatment increase an animal’s chance of survival, should a malignancy be involved.

Give your pet regular visual exams and run your hands over its body, so that you might find any obvious abnormalities.  Only a veterinary professional can accurately diagnose a problem but as an observant pet owner, you may pick up on potential trouble in-between vet visits.

Be on the lookout for the following signs from that might signal a problem:

  1. Lumps & bumps.  Only your vet can determine if a lump is a malignant tumor on your dog.
  2. Abnormal odors.  Foul or unusual odors emanating from your pet require investigation.  Certain cancers can produce can produce bad odors.
  3. Abnormal discharges.  Blood, pus, vomit, diarrhea or any other discharge should be checked by the vet.  A bloated stomach might also signify internal discharge.
  4. Sores that don’t heal.  Any wound that doesn’t heal within a normal period of time could indicate something serious.  Call the vet.
  5. Weight loss.  If it is unexplained weight loss, visit the vet.
  6. Appetite changes.  There’s always a reason if your pet stops eating.
  7. Coughing or breathing difficulties.  These could be symptoms of heart or lung disease, as well as cancer.
  8. Depression.  Pets with cancer often sleep more and become depressed.
  9. Changes in bathroom habits.  Difficulty urinating or defecating or blood in either urine or stool could be a warning sign.
  10. Pain.  Limping or any evidence of pain could signal something serious.  See the vet.

Only your veterinary professional can accurately diagnose the cause of these symptoms.


2 thoughts on “Detecting Cancer In Senior Dogs

  1. Terry Meier

    Hi! Your website is great… I have a 12 year old Golden Retriever, Summer, and she was recently diagnosed with lymphoma. Is there a specific dog food you would recommend for her? She is beginning a protocol this week of Prednisone and Lomestine. I’d truly appreciate any suggestions you might be able to offer.
    Thank you,

    1. Carol North Post author

      Terry, I make a rule never to recommend a particular food for any animal other than my own. Especially with a dog on medication for lymphoma, I would take your veterinarian’s advice. If he or she won’t recommend a specific food, then I would look at the guide on this website under the BARKS & MEOWS page at the top and use it to help when you shop. But whatever food you choose, be sure the vet approves. I don’t know anything about specific medications and if they might react with certain ingredients. Vets usually sell certain brands of pet food in their offices and recommend those. I do not like the Science Diet foods because they often contain corn products and certain other by-products. Just read the ingredients label and if you see something you don’t like, talk to your vet about it. He or she might recommend other options.

      Best of luck to your dog in her recovery.


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