10 Signs of Cancer to Keep an Eye Out for in Your Senior Dog

10 Signs of Cancer to Keep an Eye Out for in Your Senior Dog

Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on August 8, 2018
Posted in Dog Cancer as seen in PetWellbeing


Your dog is getting older and as they do, you want to be on the lookout for potential health concerns that may impact their quality of life in their later years. Cancer is one such disease your dog can develop as they age and it’s a leading cause of death in older canines. In some cases, cancer is treatable, but it needs to be caught early on. Here are 10 of the most common signs of developing cancer in aging dogs:

  1. Loss of appetite: Your dog eats normally, but suddenly is inattentive to his food or eating smaller and smaller portions, disinterested in treats or other food that used to bring joy. This may be a sign that your dog has a loss of appetite or there has been a change in health that is preventing an interest in food. This could indicate a larger problem.
  1. Problems eating: Perhaps it is not loss of appetite, but instead a physical problem with being able to eat? Loss of teeth could be an explanation, but cancer of either the mouth or throat could also be a potential cause. If it seems that your dog is in pain while eating, affecting how much they eat, it may be time to take them in to the vet.
  2. Weight loss: Loss of appetite and problems eating could result in significant weight loss. If you do not catch the first two problems, you will likely notice the change in your dog’s physical appearance. Significant weight loss for any reason is unhealthy, but it could signal a disease like cancer.
  3. Lumps, bulges and signs of tumors: Every time you groom your dog, or even after taking them for a walk outside, you should be in the habit of doing a general check of your dog’s body. Besides any tics or other things that could cause problems with your dog’s health or skin, you may also find unnatural lumps that could signal the initial stages of a tumor. If you are unsure whether or not what you have found is benign, be sure to take your dog to the vet.
  4. Open wounds that do not heal: When your dog goes for a walk or hike with you, it may be a frequent occurrence to find scratches or scrapes on their skin. It is not normal, however, if these continue to bleed or remain unhealed for long periods of time. This could signal the dog’s inability to heal, which may be part of a larger problem.
  5. Vomiting/diarrhea: If your dog is either vomiting or having diarrhea, it’s likely the result of something they ate or that upset their stomach. However, whenever both vomiting and diarrhea are present at the same time, this is an emergency situation. Take your dog to the emergency vet right away to be looked at and taken care of.
  1. Bad odor: Bad odor can come from a variety of places and have a variety of causes. However, if your dog has extremely bad breath or smells even after teeth brushing or grooming/bathing, it may be time to have a vet check on the cause. It could be that a tumor or lesion is causing the odor.

7.Problems relieving themselves: If you notice that your dog is bending in a strange way to relieve themselves, or even yelping in pain, this is a sign something is wrong. This could indicate a disease in the area, or any number or skin-related issues that could be causing pain or distress in your dog.

  1. Increased lethargy: Your dog is normally a ball of energy, bouncing around the house and begging to be let outside. But now, he is quiet, sleepy, and laying down for inordinate amounts of time. This increased lethargy could have a variety of causes, but one reason could be the amount of energy your dog’s body is using to fight a disease or larger problem. He may simply not have enough energy leftover to spend doing the things he loves, like begging for treats.


  1. Stiffness of joints: Lethargy and stiffness of joints can be easy to mix up, and so it is important to pay attention to how your dog reacts to long walks or having to jump in and out of the car. Stiffness of joints can prevent these activities and can be attributed to arthritis or be indicative of a larger issue.

Caught early, cancer is more treatable than if realized in a more advanced stage. Be sure to provide your dog with routine veterinary visits as part of your prevention plan. And if your dog exhibits any combination of symptoms above, consider taking them right away to seek medical attention. Your senior dog may not be as spry as they once were, but that doesn’t mean they’re not tough enough to fight back against cancer if it develops!


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