The big C. It’s a scary diagnosis. But you know what? It’s only scary for you humans. We waggers aren’t scared of cancer at all. Sure, maybe we’re uncomfortable. Maybe we’re in downright pain. Or, maybe we don’t have a clue what you are upset about because we feel great! The bottom line is we don’t understand what our cancer diagnosis means to you. We don’t understand the implications for our future because we take life as it comes. Dogs live in the moment.
That’s dog wisdom and our gift to you.
Dr. Cherice Roth at Ask.Vet knows that dogs experience life in the moment. She’s a pretty unique human among you higher order learners, though. Humans can be like absent-minded professors—so much going on upstairs about what the future may or may not bring. All that imagining that gets in the way of what is practically important: Now.
So chuck the fear, if you can. Fear of cancer isn’t going to do you or your wagger any good. Your knowledge and acting on it appropriately on the other paw, may do some concrete good. So, pay attention to the details, observe changes in your pet’s health, and check out Dr. Roth’s advice in Top 5 Signs of Canine Cancer for more information and to help you determine whether you need to take your wagger to the vet.
In addition, Dr. Roth recommends texting the word VET to 67076 to text with an Ask.Vet doctor live. Ask.Vet can tell you if your wagger’s symptoms should give you a new crop of grey hairs or not, and whether you need to get to a clinic.
Top 5 Signs of Canine Cancer—Dr. Cherice Roth
The top five signs of canine cancer that warrant a visit to the vet:
- Unintentional weight loss
Sorry, but scrawny is not “in” this season, or any season for that matter, when it comes to waggers. If you can spot your dog’s hips, spine and ribs and they’ve lost weight without tryin’, that’s not cool—take ‘em to a vet.
- Appetite changes
- Increased appetite: If your dog’s pigging out (more than normal) during the day or has jacked up the number of feedings during the day, then there could be something haywire.
- Loss of appetite: If your dog ain’t got his ol’ snap and leaves his food uneaten, or if he’ll only touch his treats instead of the main chow, or if your pooch skips a day or two of eating altogether, get it checked out.
- Change in bowel habits
Poop is important—keep an eye out for any changes such as intermittent diarrhea or blood in the stool or anything else out of the norm and get it evaluated.
- Lumps or bumps or limps
- Painful, swollen or warm lumps, or a lump that bothers your pet. Also, if a lump or bump changes, a vet should look at it. It is a good idea to do a DIY check on your wagger for lumps and bumps on a monthly basis and twice a month for older animals. (Check out this how-to video: 5-Minute Home Exam Could Save Your Pet ) Regular checks by you can help you catch any potential cancer as early as possible, and any changes you find should be looked at by a doctor.
- Limping. Limping that does not improve or gets worse, or if your dog’s leg is large, swollen or painful could be a sign of the big C, too. Also, if new aggression arises, it could be that a painful process is going on in the bone. This is true with all waggers, but some of the big dog breeds got dished a genetic cocktail that’ll predispose ‘em for bone cancer, so keep a particular eye on our giant friends; Bone cancer and bone infections can copycat each other, and in either case, it’s important to not mess around and get your dog in to see the vet as soon as possible.
- Intermittent bad days
This could be cancer of the spleen; Take your wagger to the vet if this is the case, even if they seem to be in a good period because the situation could turn fast and be life-threatening before you know what hit ‘em. You can also check gums on a bad day to see if they are white. If they are white, don’t wait—get them into a clinic, fast.
If your vet is screening for cancer, you can expect a physical exam for your wagger, as well as diagnostics that may include blood work, x-rays, ultrasounds and/or a biopsy depending on the symptoms and what your vet discovers. The diagnostics help your dog’s doc uncover what’s ailing your pooch and also will help to figure out the prognosis and treatment options to optimize quality of life.
Remember, if your wagger is diagnosed with cancer, it isn’t necessarily the end of the world. Just like you humans have medical specialists, there are veterinary oncologists for your dog, if they get cancer. There is a lot that can be done—chemotherapy, surgery, radiation. In fact, everything that can be done for a human can also be done for us. Since you can’t ask your wagger what’s wrong and get a straight, clear answer, the diagnostics are especially important. Cancer cells are sneaky devils and it can be very hard to find them, especially early-on in the disease.
If your wagger gets cancer, the type of cancer, concurrent diseases, and life stage are all important to consider in determining the best path forward for your sick pup. Treatment can be very pricey and isn’t always the best choice for your wagging BFF or you or your family. That is okay. Just because medicine can intervene, doesn’t mean that it should. Whether you decide to treat your pup or not, and to what extent, is a very personal decision—there are no wrong answers.
Dr. Roth says to keep up your annual and bi-annual veterinary exams to help catch cancer early. Giving your dog the best odds is about wellness all along the way and you want to catch cancer as early as possible—nip it in the bud pronto.
If you are worried about any symptoms your wagger may be experiencing, remember you can always text the word VET to 67076 and text live with a vet about your concerns, or take your wagger into your vet clinic directly.