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Lung Cancer in Dogs

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Authored by Ruth Dsouza Prabhu in Dogs
Published on 10-30-2009

When we bring home a pet, we bring in a new addition to the family. The feeling of heartache at our pet dogs developing lung cancer can be as devastating as for a close relative. Older dogs of medium to large sizes are susceptible to this often fatal disease.

Veterinary sciences have not yet been able to pinpoint the exact reasons for the onset of cancer in dogs. But research has shown that dogs are not too different from humans in terms of bodily reactions to pollutants. Dogs that have been exposed to second-hand smoke stand a bigger chance of succumbing to lung cancer. So too, for urban dogs that are exposed to the polluted city life.

Lung cancer in dogs can be malignant or benign and manifest themselves in two forms. The first is metastatic, where the cancerous cells originate in other parts of the body and move on to the lungs. The other is primary, where the tumors are found in the lungs of the dog. The most common canine tumor is called malignant carcinoma.

When it comes to cancer symptoms in dogs, they do not manifest themselves in the early stages. The symptoms come on as the disease progresses, usually making its presence felt only when it is too late to reverse it. Cancer symptoms in dogs include breathlessness, a loss of appetite and weight and an overall listlessness. Get your dog to a veterinarian if you find that they are coughing excessively with or without the presence of mucous and have problems walking.

In most cases of lung cancer in dogs, the cancerous cells would have originated from elsewhere in their bodies and traveled to the lungs. Your veterinarian will refer you to an oncologist once he has diagnosed your dog with cancer. Before you decide to go ahead with treatment for lung cancer in your dog, assess the extent of the disease that the animal has suffered through. If the cancer is in the advanced stages, doctors advise that humane euthanasia be the solution. Consider this option seriously if you have your dog’s comfort in mind. While chemotherapy and radiation can be carried out, there are times when you will just have to let go.

Treatment for lung cancer in dogs will depend on the extent of the disease. If it has confined itself to one area, then surgery will help your pet. This may involve removing a part of the infected lung or sometimes a lung in its entirety. This may slow down your pet a bit, but he will survive well on a single lung. In some cases, the mass to be removed will be extremely large. At this point your vet might suggest the use of radiation to reduce the size of the tumor, before he performs the surgery.

If surgery has been performed, post–operative care is essential and here are things you will have to keep in mind

  • While exercise is essential, the time of your short leash walks will have to cut down based on the type of surgery performed. Your doctor will advise you on this.
  • Relieve your pet’s pain by administering oral pain killers as and when necessary.
  • Watch out for labored breathing.
  • Always ensure that the dog’s gums and teeth are a nice shade of pink.
  • Regularly examine the surgery incision to make sure that no infection has settled in.
  • Dogs will be forced by virtue of habit to lick or scratch the wound. Make sure that this does not happen.

No one would like to lose their pet to such a dreaded disease. There is no foolproof way to prevent lung cancer in dogs. Keep them healthy and away from pollutants. A healthy diet and some good exercise should help them battle cancerous cells. There have been cases where multiple surgeries are required to get a pet back on its feet. But considering the agony that your pet will go through, you will have to make the choice on course of treatment prudently.

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