The awful big ‘C’. With 1 in 3 pets being diagnosed with cancer, knowing the key clinical signs can assist you in identifying it early and giving your furry friend the best chance for treatment.

What Is Cancer in Pets


Tumours are the uncontrollable division of abnormal cells in the body. There are benign tumours, which do not spread but can cause secondary issues because of their size such as lipomas in older pets. There are also malignant tumours, which gradually spread to other sites in the body.

Top 7 Signs of Cancer in Pets

1. Weight loss – cancers consume energy and a normal appetite with weight loss is a significant clinical sign that something is wrong.

2. Lethargy and depression – those days when your pet just isn’t behaving like their usual self may be their way of warning you something isn’t right.

3. Vomiting and diarrhoea though these can be caused by a multitude of reasons, it can be a red flag, particularly in older animals. Your vet might suggest an abdominal ultrasound, which is a very useful diagnostic method.

4. Appetite changes – sometimes pets can lose their appetite or become less enthusiastic about food due to underlying signs of nausea or abdominal discomfort. Conversely, they may seem to be continually hungry due to the cancer utilising the food as fuel.

5. Persistent limping – in large breed dogs, continual limping and pain could be a sign of aggressive bone cancer. It is important to investigate lameness as soon as it occurs.

6. External lumps – take note of new growths on your pet including the size, appearance, discharge and any changes. Often malignant cancers grow faster than benign ones. We recommend getting any new lumps checked with your vet as soon as possible

7. Distended abdomen – an enlarged abdomen can be an EMERGENCY situation. It could mean there is an issue with an organ, or blood or dangerous fluid in the abdomen. This is something to be acted on immediately.

Treatment Options

Rapid detection of cancer provides an increased range of treatment options and survival. Treatment can involve surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation and there are also palliative, inexpensive medications which are also an option for some types of cancers. This emphasises the importance of yearly health checks with your vet. During your pet’s physical exam, your vet pays close attention to lymph node size, heart/lung sounds, abdomen size and rectal palpation.

Although, cancers cannot be prevented, awareness, a healthy diet and exercise can help. Pay close attention to what your furry friend is trying to tell you. If you notice any of these signs in your pet, seek advice from your local vet.  

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!