Nobody ever wants to think about the horrible "C-word", but unfortunately cancer is one of the leading causes of death in dogs and should be discussed more often. Research shows that 1 in 4 dogs will develop cancer at some point in their lives and almost half of dogs over age 10 have cancer.

That's a shocking statistic to see.

But that's why early detection is so critical in making the best of a bad situation. Cancer isn't an immediate death sentence, especially if it's caught early. In honor of National Pet Cancer Awareness Month I wanted to share some common warning signs your dog might have cancer in the hopes it helps any dog live a longer life.

A note: I'm not a veterinarian, but I've worked with some of the best in specialty medicine right here in Tacoma. If you have any concerns, it's always best to reach out to your vet to discuss them.

Two small dogs on a dock with dog mom in Tacoma

Abnormal or rapidly growing lumps and bumps

Lumps and bumps are a common occurrence with pets as they get older and most veterinarians will keep a "map" of all the ones that appear, as well as generally taking a sample for testing if either you or them are concerned. Often times lumps are benign and come with a "watch for any changes" sort of talk from your vet.

However if you notice a lump that looks rather abnormal or is growing at a faster that usual rate, it's best to mention that to your vet ASAP to get it tested. Sometimes it's nothing, but always better safe than sorry.

Loss of appetite

When dogs don't feel good one of the signs they commonly show is a loss of appetite. No one likes to eat much when they aren't feeling well, and dogs are no exception.

Some things you can try while you wait to get in to the vet are bland chicken and rice so it's easy on their stomach (and likely not something they always get so it's interesting to them) or adding bland chicken broth to their regular food to try to entice them to eat even just a little bit.

Sometimes what works best is that motherly touch, so try hand feeding small balls of wet food if nothing else is persuading them to eat.

Weight loss

Is your pet still eating and drinking normally but suddenly losing weight? This can be a sign that there's something else going on. While it doesn't specifically mean that it's cancer, it's important to get in to see your veterinarian right away to find out the exact cause of the weight loss.


Lameness could be a sign of anything from too much exercise or sprains to torn ligaments or bone cancers. It's always great to start with a little bit of rest for a couple of days, but if you're noticing prolonged lameness, from a simple limp to your dog completely holding up one of their legs, it's best to get them seen to see exactly what's going on.

Sores that won't heal

These are typically skin wounds that aren't responding to treatments whether that's antibiotics or ointments directly on the skin. In these situations you are likely already under the care of a veterinarian, but if they haven't brought it up already it might be time to talk about what's causing your dogs wound to resist treatment and what the next steps might be.

Senior chihuahua in Tacoma - Dog Photographer
Senior dog with cancer enjoying their celebration of life photo session in Tacoma

If you think your dog might have cancer

Schedule a visit to see your veterinarian to discuss your concerns and possible diagnostic options. Unfortunately ruling out cancer isn't as simple as a blood test (though blood tests can be helpful during the process), but your vet will be able to help you with figuring out if your dog has cancer and what the best treatment path will be for them.

Starting with your general practice vets will help you to save some money in the long run, but if you're looking for a specialist in the area Summit Veterinary Referral Center in Tacoma is a fantastic place to get some of the best care around. Their oncology department will help you feel comfortable and well taken care of during this process and the other departments like surgery and internal medicine are all there to help as well.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Marie Wulfram Photography - Tacoma Dog Photographer
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