Common Types of Cancer in Pets

Skin - Skin tumors are very common in older dogs, but much less common in cats. Most skin tumors in cats are malignant, but in dogs they are often benign. Your veterinarian should examine all skin tumors in a dog or cat to determine if any are malignant.

Breast - 50% of all breast tumors in dogs and greater than 85% of all breast tumors in cats are malignant. Spaying your female pet between 6 and 12 months of age will greatly reduce the risk of breast cancer. Surgery is the treatment of choice for this type of cancer. Follow up treatment may be recommended.

Head & Neck - Cancer of the mouth is common in dogs and less common in cats. Signs to watch for are a mass on the gums, bleeding, odor, or difficulty eating. Since many swellings are malignant, early, aggressive treatment is essential. Cancer may also develop inside the nose of both cats and dogs. Bleeding from the nose, breathing difficulty, or facial swelling are symptoms that may indicate cancer and should be checked by your veterinarian.

Lymphoma - Lymphoma is a common form of cancer in dogs and cats. It is characterized by enlargement of one or many lymph nodes in the body. A contagious feline leukemia virus can be the cause of lymphoma in some cats. Chemotherapy is frequently effective in controlling this type of cancer.

Feline Leukemia Complex - The feline leukemia virus is contagious among cats and will occasionally cause different types of cancer. It is not contagious to humans. While a great deal of research is ongoing, no consistently effective treatment is presently available for virus-positive cats.

Testicles - Testicular tumors are rare in cats and common in dogs, especially those with retained testes. Most of these cancers are preventable with castration (neutering) and curable with surgery if done early in the disease process.

Abdominal Tumors - Tumors inside the abdomen are common but it is difficult to make an early diagnosis. Weight loss or abdominal enlargement are signs of these tumors.

Bone - Bone tumors are most often seen in large breed dogs and rarely in cats. The leg bones, near joints, are the most common sites. Persistent pain, lameness, and swelling in the affected area are common symptoms of the disease.

Many of the above signs are also seen with noncancerous conditions but they still warrant prompt attention by a veterinarian to determine the cause. Cancer is frequently treatable and early diagnosis will aid your veterinarian in delivering the best care possible.

This information has been prepared as a service by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

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