What is a cancer diagnosis?

It is important to understand which type of cancer a pet has to enable a targeted treatment. After all, not all tumours are similar.

Some tumour types are benign and are no immediate threat. Other tumour types are malignant and should be dealt with as soon as possible. The malignant behaviour can limit itself to local aggressive growth into the surrounding tissue, but can also be characterized by metastases. Not all malignant tumours metastasize in a similar way. This is why it is important to determine the tumour type: this also allows for a more focused approach to trace metastases.

Not all tumours respond in a similar way to certain treatments. For example, some tumours are sensitive to chemo- or radiation therapy, while others are not. Cancer can be compared to an adversary: the more information is gained about it, the greater the chances are to find a weak spot that can help you defeat it.

Via a cancer diagnosis it is possible to:

  • Determine which tumour type the pet has
  • Confirm whether the tumour is benign or malignant. If it is malignant, it’s necessary to establish how aggressive the tumour is.

The importance of early detection

When cancer is caught in an early stage, the chances of cure increase greatly. Early detection is possible by regularly having a check done by a veterinarian, as well as knowing yourself which symptoms are linked to cancer.

Usually, the owner will notice a lump or other anomaly, which leads to a visit to the veterinarian. The veterinarian can make a cancer diagnosis and stage the tumour. Once the diagnosis is made, it is possible to obtain more precise information from the veterinarian.

How can I recognize signs of cancer in my dog?

Gather as much information as possible by e.g. keeping a journal on the behaviour of your dog or changes you notice about your dog.

In particular pay attention to:

  • Swellings or lumps that do not disappear
  • Wounds that do not heal
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abnormal bleeding or discharge (e.g. from the nose)
  • Unpleasant odor (e.g. from the mouth)
  • Trouble swallowing or chewing
  • Loss of energy or stamina
  • Abnormal stiffness or limping
  • Difficulties breathing or urinating/defecating

Certain examinations will allow the veterinarian to set up the most appropriate treatment plan for your pet. Depending on the tumour type/state of progression your veterinarian will be able to treat your pet him/herself or refer you to a veterinarian specialized in oncology.

A cancer diagnosis can consist of the following steps:

Physical examination
Blood examination
Urine examination
Bone marrow punction