Cancer in Dogs: Types, Treatments, and Prognosis


Cancer in dogs can affect everything from the skin to the bones. The disease is caused by uncontrolled cell growth and can take one of two forms: benign (does not grow unlimited, aggressive, does not invade surrounding tissues, and does not spread to other parts of the body) and malignant (meaning it enters healthy tissues, grows aggressively and spreads to other areas of the body). Since some cancers grow slowly while others develop more quickly, be sure to see your vet as soon as possible if you notice anything unusual.

Types of cancer

There are several different types of cancer in dogs. Here are some of the most common, including their symptoms and treatments:

  • * Hemangiosarcoma (HSA): an aggressive malignant cancer that arises from the blood vessels and mainly affects the spleen, heart, or skin. Skin shape is associated with sun exposure and white-haired breeds are at higher risk. The lesions look like dark red or black growths on the skin and should be removed immediately as 1/3 will spread internally. Hemagiosarcoma of the spleen and heart usually presents with acute collapse / weakness and pale gums due to bleeding from the tumor. German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Boxers, and English Setters seem to be biased. Surgical removal of the spleen and biopsy are necessary to diagnose SAH, as the mass may be benign (hemangioma or hematoma). Surgery to remove the cardiac mass or open the lining of the heart is only palliative, and the mass is often unresectable. While early and aggressive treatment, including chemotherapy, can prolong your dog’s life, complete remission is rare.

  • Cutaneous Histiocytomas – Small, round benign tumors that can appear anywhere on the skin of the body, but are most common on the head, ears, and neck of dogs under 3 years of age. They usually return in 2-3 months, however if the tumors bother your dog they can be surgically removed. This tumor has been reported to be the most common skin cancer and the most commonly seen form of cancer overall.6.7
  • Lymphoma (LSA) – A common malignant cancer (about 10-20% of all cancers in dogs) that occurs in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, and other organs, primarily affecting middle-aged and older dogs. Certain breeds such as Rottweilers, Scottish Terriers, and Golden Retrievers are at higher risk and it is also speculated that it may be hereditary. Lymph node tumors appear as swellings, but other symptoms vary depending on the part of the body involved: the gastrointestinal form of this cancer causes vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss, the chest shape causes shortness of breath and muffled heart sounds. and the shape of the skin causes red, itchy bumps to appear on the skin and inside the mouth. Biopsies, X-rays, and ultrasound are used to diagnose lymphoma. Once diagnosed, the lymphoma must be staged to determine the best course of treatment and provide a prognosis. Treatment often consists of chemotherapy +/- surgery. Some veterinary hospitals now offer a bone marrow transplant, but the cost (around $ 20,000) will likely prohibit most of us from performing it. A consultation with a veterinary oncologist can determine the best course of treatment, which can sometimes add a year or more to a dog’s life.
  • Breast Cancer: The most common cancer in female dogs and predominantly affects older female dogs between the ages of five and ten who have not been spayed. German Shepherds, Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, and Terriers are overrepresented. Half of these tumors are malignant and half of them have spread at the time of diagnosis. The tumors can affect one or more mammary glands throughout your pet’s belly. They can be a single small mass or multiple large ulcerated masses. Malignant tumors tend to grow rapidly and benign ones tend to grow slowly. A biopsy and microscopic investigation will determine whether the tumors are benign or malignant. Immediate surgical removal of any breast lump is recommended. If caught early, surgical removal of tumors can completely eliminate more than 50 percent of malignant cases. Sterilization is also recommended if it has not already been done, as 50% of malignant tumors and some benign tumors have receptors for female hormones. Early sterilization (before the first heat) reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. Chemotherapy is also sometimes used to treat some breast cancers. The prognosis depends on the type of cancer, the size of the mass, the extent of spread, ulceration, how quickly it grows, and the results of the biopsy.
  • Mast Cell Tumors (MCTs): They are a common skin tumor (20% of all skin tumors in dogs) found anywhere on the skin, especially on the trunk. Boxers, Boston terriers, bullmastiffs and English setters are predisposed. MCTs vary in appearance and can be smooth, lumpy, or ulcerated. They can also be enlarged or reduced in a short period of time, especially when touched due to the compounds in MCT (histamine and heparin) that cause redness and swelling. Most MCTs are locally invasive and often difficult to remove. These tumors are classified from I to III, according to their behavior (invasiveness, how well differentiated it is, how fast it is dividing, etc.) and the higher grades are classified by stages. MCT usually spreads to lymph nodes, liver, spleen, and bone marrow, so staging requires blood tests, X-rays, ultrasound, lymph node aspirates, bone marrow aspirates. Surgical removal +/- radiation therapy is the main treatment and requires wide margins. Chemotherapy is sometimes used, but the response is unpredictable. The prognosis is good for grades I and II, and the prognosis for grade III dogs is guarded. Dogs that develop MCT are likely to develop further, therefore they should be watched closely.
  • Osteosarcoma (OSA): most common bone tumor in dogs. It is an aggressive, malignant, and highly metastatic bone tumor that occurs most often in the bones around the shoulder, wrist, and knee, but can develop in any bone. It mainly affects older dogs of large or giant breeds, with Great Danes, Saint Bernard, Great Pyrenees, Newfoundland, Bernese mountain dogs and Irish wolfhounds being the most at risk. The tumors usually cause pain, lameness, and swelling in the affected limb. Sometimes they present as a fracture. A biopsy is performed to identify the cancer, and due to the high rate of metastasis, chest X-rays are also indicated. Other tumors can mimic OSA such as chondrosarcoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and synovial cell sarcoma. Yeast infections can have similar symptoms, so yeast titers should also be done if there is a possible exposure. Treatment options include amputation, radiation, chemotherapy, and pain relievers, depending on whether you want to relieve pain or try to cure it. The prognosis depends on many factors, and survival times vary from 3 months to 2 years.

Cancer can be a devastating diagnosis. Even if your pet has been diagnosed with cancer, fight it with the positive power of nutrition. Nutrient-dense foods that will give your dog the best chance of being healthy, such as Prescription Diet n / a, can create a powerful platform from which your dog can fight cancer.

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