One of the most difficult aspects of hearing, ‘your dog has cancer,’ is the unexpected diagnosis. How could my dog just all of a sudden have cancer now when they didn’t appear to last week? The truth is it’s in your dog’s DNA to hide their illnesses as long as possible. The weakest in the pack may be left behind. It’s not your fault if you didn’t see any symptoms, they may not have been showing them well.
When a Dog Can’t Hide the Symptoms
In the wild, dogs that are weak are vulnerable to predators and slow down the fast-moving pack. Therefore, dogs are wired not to show any signs of weakness and most will hide their pain or discomfort for as long as possible, especially if they have an ‘alpha’ mentality. ‘Alpha’ dogs will lose their rank to another if they aren’t feeling well.
Despite all this time, these instincts remain. Once your dog can no longer hide their symptoms, they are known to be ‘decompensating.’ This is generally when they are taken to the veterinarian and a diagnosis is discovered. Once a dog begins to decompensate, that’s when it feels like a sudden hit. All of a sudden the symptoms begin appearing they can no longer hide.
How to Detect Cancer in Dogs Sooner
During a routine checkup, your veterinarian will palpate your dog’s abdomen, head, and the rest of their body. They will check for any lumps, bumps, or abnormalities. They will also listen to their breathing with a stethoscope.
Unfortunately, not all cancer types can be discovered this way, and there isn’t much available in the way of screening for early detection although some ideas are looking promising.
When Your Vet Says, “Wait and See”
If your veterinarian does feel a lump or bump during the physical exam, they often aren’t apt to immediately try to detect dog cancer. Many have a ‘wait and see’ approach. This means watching the lump closely and monitoring to determine if it grows or changes in any way. Unfortunately, sometimes this approach causes cancer to spread further into the body.
We recommend immediately requesting a fine needle aspirate. Although it may result in a slightly higher vet bill, it could make a huge difference in your dog’s life. Understanding how to detect dog cancer and being your dog’s biggest advocate is critical. They can’t make this call, so you have to do it for them.
Most of the time, a lump does turn out to be benign. But, you don’t want your dog to be the one out of a handful that has a malignant mass that’s not treated early.
Some Veterinarians Don’t Focus on Cancer as Much as Others
There are some veterinarians that don’t have a cancer-focus and most have a treatment-based focus rather than prevention-based focus. According to studies, one in three dogs will develop cancer in their life. Once they turn ten years old, this statistic rises to one out of every two. The odds are alarmingly high.
That’s where we and other organizations come in. Treatment is critical, but so is prevention. If you look around at the rest of our blog, you will find articles involving how to prevent dog cancer rather than solely treat it.
Making Decisions on How to Detect Cancer in Dogs Early
Of course, this is an expense, but if you are feeling concerned about your dog having cancer, you may consider a check-up every six months rather than once per year. You may also want to request additional bloodwork be drawn at each appointment to check all their markers for anything abnormal.
Your veterinarian may not bring this up to you due to the added expense, especially if there aren’t any signs of cancer, but it could provide you with more time if cancer is detected early.
Genomic tests show promise for early detection of canine cancers | American Veterinary Medical Association
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