Cancer isn’t a disease that’s confined to humans; it can also strike man’s best friend. In fact, cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs over the age of ten. This doesn’t mean that your dog will develop cancer or that a cancer diagnosis means Fido’s time is running out. When caught early, many canine cancers can be eradicated.

Common cancers seen in dogs include skin and mammary tumors, bone cancer, lymphoma and soft tissue sarcomas. Some breeds may be more prone to developing cancer than others. If your dog exhibits symptoms such as lumps or sores, swelling, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite or unusual listlessness, it’s time for a trip to the vet.

Diagnosis

Your vet will likely do a series of diagnostic tests as well as a physical examination to assess your dog’s symptoms. If a lump is found, it may be biopsied or removed to test for malignancy.

Treatment Options

Dogs receiving a cancer diagnosis have many of the same options for treatment as people do. Talk with your vet to determine which course of action is the best for your dog. Surgery to remove tumors is often the first choice for cancers that haven’t metastasized. Chemotherapy and radiation can be used individually or in combination to combat tumor cells at any stage. Dogs can even receive bone marrow transplants if necessary.

Ongoing research into treatments such as vaccines and drugs to treat canine cancer is bringing new hope to dogs diagnosed with malignant conditions. A combination of treatments is the most common approach for addressing cancer in dogs.

Feeding Tips

Just like with humans, diet is very important for dogs dealing with cancer. You want to give your pup the best tools possible to fight the disease, and good nutrition is one of the most powerful protectants you can provide.

The most important thing to address after a cancer diagnosis is cancer cachexia, a wasting condition that occurs when tumors begin to rob the body of essential nutrients. This can cause a loss of both muscle tissue and body fat, making it essential to give your dog a healthy, balanced diet. Tumors feed on glucose, so go easy on carbohydrates and make sure the ones you choose are complex and low-glycemic. Cancer also draws protein away from essential processes such as muscle building. Talk with your vet about the best ways to balance this with increased dietary protein.

Dogs with cancer tend not to eat as much and will begin to use up stores of body fat. Replenish these with high-quality fats including omega-3 fatty acids so that your dog has something to draw on if he’s not able to eat his usual food.

A cancer diagnosis might be scary, but it isn’t the end of the line for your pooch. Feeding a nutrient-rich diet, keeping your dog comfortable and following veterinary advice for treatment can arrest or reverse this serious condition and give your dog his best chance for a healthy, happy life.