Dog cancer is a scary concept. Curled up on the couch with your beloved pet for a pat, you suddenly discover your dog has a lump. Your mind starts to race as you try to remember if it was there yesterday when you had a cuddle? And before you know it, that dreaded words dog cancer pop into your head.
The discovery of a lump can cause panic and make you fear the worst.
Pet dogs do get lumps and bumps and most tend to be benign (not cancerous). However, it’s difficult to tell from looking at the outside whether the lump your family pet has poses an issue or not.
Here’s the Fox Valley Animal Hospital guide to identifying and treating lumps on pet dogs and why not all bumps mean dog cancer
You’ve found a lump. What should you do?
Firstly, do not panic. It’s important to book a consult to get the lump checked out so you know what the cause is. And not all causes are bad. Resist the temptation to avoid the initial consult and give us a call to arrange an appointment for your pets’ health and your peace of mind.
During your consult at Fox Valley Animal Hospital, the vets will ask you some questions about the lump such as:
- Has it changed shape, size or colour?
- Has the lump appeared quickly?
- Has your dog’s behaviour changed?
This allows us to obtain a more comprehensive history and helps us to make a diagnosis. However this alone cannot determine what the lump on your dog is. We need to gather some cells from the lump for pathology to be on the safe side.
Obtaining samples through Fine Needle Aspirates
Using a very fine needle, Dr Alex or Dr Katie can obtain some cells from your pet dog’s lump. This procedure can be carried out without the need of an anaesthetic and is not invasive. This procedure usually isn’t painful for your dog and can give us valuable information for diagnosis and treatment.
Occasionally our vets can tell straight away if it is a lipoma (a fatty lump) due to the aspirated material and seeing what it contains. If not, we send the cells away to be checked by a specialist pathologist.
In the case of further testing required
Occasionally, we do not get an answer from a fine needle aspirate. If this is the case, we can take a biopsy of the lump and send it off for pathology for extra testing.
This means we take a small tissue sample from your dog either under sedation or general anaesthetic. Our vets will make this decision on a case by case basis depending on the situation at hand.
Involving these kinds of tests markedly improve the chances of getting a proper diagnosis, dog cancer or not.
What happens if your dog’s lump is benign
We normally ask you to ‘watch and monitor’ benign lumps. Benign lumps can still cause a problem if they become infected, painful or overly large and hinder your dog’s ability to enjoy a normal life. If the lumps do start impacting negatively on your dog’s enjoyment of life, surgery will be an option.
We also consider the location of the lump. For example, if it grows will it prevent a successful surgery later on? In which case, we may offer you the option of removal at the time of diagnosis.
What about dog cancer?
Sadly in some cases lumps are cancerous. However, there are lots of different types of dog cancers that have a good prognosis and recovery with early detection.
With cancer, knowledge is power. Knowing what type of dog cancer we are dealing with allows our vets to investigate further and see if it has metastasised (spread to other organs in the body). It also gives Dr Alex and Dr Katie the information they need to plan out appropriate treatment options.
Don’t play the waiting game if you suspect dog cancer
Dog cancer can be swift and leave you with very few issues if detection is late.
Even with a benign lump, waiting can increase the risk of health problems. Lumps tend to grow in size over time making them more difficult to remove. Some types of growths need what we call ‘wide margins’ to aid with a successful removal. This means the vet needs to remove extra skin around the lump as the growth can spread out to the surrounding tissue. This is difficult on your dogs’ limbs or areas of not much skin.
A larger mass may need additional treatment such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy after removal. And catching malignant tumours (ones that have the potential to spread) early may reduce the chances of metastasis.
In all these cases, early detection and diagnosis is the key to planning the right kind of treatment for your family pet.
Even if it isn’t dog cancer, you need to stay on top of those lumps and bumps
Just because your dog has been diagnosed with multiple lipomas, please stay vigilant and have any new lumps and bumps aspirated. Don’t just assume it’s another lipoma.
The earlier we detect any growth or tumour that may lead to dog cancer, the better.
Remember no-one, not you, not the vet or an oncologist, can tell what a lump is by just looking at it.
With early diagnosis of dog cancer or other issues, less treatment will likely be required. Smaller surgeries tend to produce curative results and overall treatment plans can be geared towards management as opposed to solving a bigger issue. This means fewer costs, a better prognosis, a happier dog and a happier owner. All of which adds up to a lot less stress on everyone involved.
If you suspect dog cancer, make an appointment on (02) 94894805 to have any lumps checked out by our vets.