Pets Can Show Warning Signs Before Cancer Diagnosis

Image of a thin cat.

Warning signs can be present in your family pet before the veterinarian makes an actual diagnosis. You'll want to be alert and watch for warning signs as preventative measures, and at the same time provide your pet with the best nutrition, exercise program and lifestyle possible for his or her activity levels and overall health.

"Cancer is an incredibly challenging and difficult disease," says Cheryl London, a board-certified oncologist and associate professor at Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Only your veterinarian can tell you if your pet has the dreaded "c" disease.

Only your veterinarian can help you through the diagnosis, treatment and later outcomes, so you'll want to work closely with your vet if your pet becomes ill for any reason. It's the best partnership you can make and will allow you opportunities to provide great care for your beloved companion.

Remember to keep visits consistent, call with questions and follow through on treatment recommendations. Various signs can present themselves and prompt concern for your pet's well being. Your vet will let you know if they're danger signs. What to you look for:

Lack of usual excitement for exercising, playtime and walks; reduced endurance during these activities. Keep your eyes open and pay attention to your companion's hints. This can be an early indicator that he or she is not feeling their best!

Trouble walking, moving, changes in balance or ability to run, play or work. Persistent difficulty with walking, moving, balance changes or inability to carry on with daily activities can be present for a number of reasons, not just cancer. Look to your favorite veterinarian to identify the cause of lameness, treatment and return to good health. Note that some cancers that may involve lameness include bone cancer, and cancer of the muscle or nerves.

Delayed-healing. If your pet experiences delayed healing during repair of typical sores or wounds, check with your vet for guidance. Sores that don't heal well or completely can be attributed to infection or disease. When you run your hands over your companion during massage and rub-down sessions, you can quickly zero in on troublesome areas that may show signs of swelling. Report these areas, too!

Difficulty with normal functions. Normal functions include breathing, and bladder or bowel toileting. Any problems that arise with these functions should be brought to your vet's attention immediately.

Loss of unexplained weight. Pets can gain or add weight much like your family members. But when that weight is lost without intention, exercise or change in food, nutrition or activity levels, your vet needs to get a phone call and an appointment to evaluate your pet.

Odors that are offensive. Let's face it, pets can smell offensive because of infrequent bathing, lack of dental care, improper or inadequate nutrition, or any number of other reasons. Among those reasons are also tumors related to the anus, mouth or nose.

Bleeding from any opening in the body, this includes discharge like vomiting and diarrhea. Most of the reasons bleeding will occur are not normal. Vomiting and diarrhea are not normal body functions, either.

Swallowing troubles or eating difficulties. Unfortunately, this can be a sign or mouth-related cancer or cancer within the neck area.

Remember that your companion's health and well being depend on you to read the signs given, act on those signs and reach out to for help. Your pets depend on you to help them have the best life possible and live that life to their best ability.


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  • "Words can not begin to express our gratitude for the care you had given Hunter over the years. When his time came, he watched for you to come through the door and his tail showed his affection towards you. That was most comforting having you there. Thank you.""
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    ~ J.D.
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  • ""A sincere thank you for taking such good care of Dulce. We are so thrilled that she is back to her normal self. You gave her the support and care she needed in her darkest hours and kept us confident in her recovery.""
  • ""Just to say how much we appreciate all of you. You all are wonderful people. We feel blessed to have our beloved furry children in your care when they need it. Your professional knowledge and your acts of kindness have a beautiful act all it's own. You are a great vet, compassionate and everything good all in one. You are in our daily prayers.""
  • ""Thank you and all of your staff for the excellent care you gave to my wonderful Abbey, who was so much a part of the family. Thank you for all the advice and support you gave to me these last few months. I don't know how I would have gotten through this without your constant support. I will, and I have highly recommended you to family and friends, as I feel you are the best!""
  • ""Thank you for taking care of my kitty, Slingshot. He is feeling better and better. My Paw-Paw said that you took extra special care of him and I really appreciate it. So, thank you again for taking care of my cat.""
    ~T.B. (age 6)
  • ""Dr. Johnson, I don't know why you decided to move here from your home in New Jersey, but I absolutely believe it was so you could help me and Mickey. I know coming to someone's home is not what a typical veterinarian would do, but you are obviously an extraordinary man in a world filled with ordinary men….On top of that, your sensitive and wonderful handwritten note arrived and touched my heart…You are one of those quiet, unheralded champions who make life easier for everyone you touch.""
  • ""Thank you so much for taking care of Lola when she had her reaction, and your office was already closed. I know you took time away from yourself and your family and I really appreciate it.""
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  • ""Thank you for all of your support for Maxine during her illness. All was very much appreciated and will always be remembered. I have related to all my friends of what a great doctor and staff at Birdneck Animal Hospital.""
  • ""Thank you for taking such good care of me over the last 4 years. I am doing well and both legs and feet feel great. You sis an awesome job on me Dr. Johnson, and I'm gonna have a great year this year and I hope to see you only for my check up. You guys are the best!""
  • "We can't thank you enough for the wonderful and loving care you gave to"Budkus" while he was in your care. He was so little and so sick and we were so scared for him. Each and every one of the staff members made us feel like we had the only dog in the world. Like nothing else mattered except getting "Budkus" well again. Our deepest gratitude to all of you for the excellent care and attention we received, for your encouragement, comfort, and understanding, and most importantly for saving his life! Thank you so much.""
    ~ J.,B.,C.