Cancer: Types Of Symptoms

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In many cases, each stage of dog cancer can be determined by its' signs and symptoms. That said, it is very common that cancers of any type and form show non specific and confusing symptoms; therefore these symptoms aren't helpful in making a confirmatory and final diagnosis of cancer.

Dog cancer symptoms are classified by different types of cancerous growths. A dog with cancer may exhibit as:

These symptoms can also help in deciding the stage of cancer, which is most important tool for prognosis. Symptoms can be helpful in making a timely diagnosis and in determining treatment options, but symptoms alone can never be the sole basis for diagnosing canine cancers.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has a list of ten dog cancer symptoms that may indicate the presence of cancer. They are:

  1. Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
  2. Sores that do not heal
  3. Weight loss
  4. Loss of appetite
  5. Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  6. Offensive odor
  7. Difficulty eating or swallowing
  8. Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
  9. Persistent lameness or stiffness
  10. Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating

Primary Local Signs:

Local signs, symptoms and the appearance of a cancerous site are primary signs for any dog cancer. A lumpy and massive collaborated activity of cells (grouping such as a bump or diseased skin area) at a specific site can be suspected for cancer. Pain, redness, hemorrhages, injuries and ulcers may appear as local signs. Dogs with such developments may appear restless and may try to lick the cancerous site frequently.

The local appearance and when the area is touched (called palaptation) may represent as being malignant (fast spreading, harmful) or benign (not immediately harmful, treatable) type of dog cancer. Hardened, painful and progressive widening bodies under the skin may be a benign tumor. Malignant cancers appear to be soft, diffused (spread over an area or deep into the tissue), ulcerated and affecting a large area.


If the dog cancers are of a malignant nature (i.e. have tendency to spread to other parts of body), then they may show symptoms and signs of metastasis (spreading). The cancerous cell can spread to adjacent tissue and other parts of body. Lymph nodes should be evaluated in such cases. Lymph nodes may appear as swollen, painful, inflamed. When felt (palpatated), they may be enlarged as you move from the cancerous area and indicate secondary cancerous cellular growth. Other symptoms of metastasis are generally organ and system specific. For example, cough and respiratory collapse sometimes represents that cancer has spread to the lower respiratory tract from adjoining tracheal and bronchial carcinomas. Pain, fractures and progressive degeneration of bone tissues may represent secondary osteocarcinomas.

Systemic Symptoms:

There are many non specific, less relevant and common symptoms which are associated with dog cancers. These symptoms are common and can be confused with other diseases too. These may include progressive weight loss, reduced appetite and a decline in the dog's libido. Dogs affected with cancers may appear as fatigued, tired and emaciated. Hair loss is another common sign. Various carcinogens which affect skin cause partial or complete hair loss.

Hyper salivation, increased sweating, frequent and consistent fever represents problems in control centers that are located in the hind brain and may be suspected for several types of brain tumors. Neurological signs of systemic problems such as a lack of coordination may represent a benign tumor in the fore brain. Blood cancer may show symptoms such as anemia and a reduced level of hemoglobin in blood. Thus systemic symptoms for dog cancers varies with site, metastatic capacity, degree of cancerous growth and finally a system specific primary or secondary cancer.