I remember sitting in my home office and watching my fluffy white terri-poo Joey stand up. The little lump that I had felt on his back leg a few days prior was suddenly huge! How did that happen in just a few days?
What was even worse was that there were some spots of blood on his dog bed. I checked the lump and it had cracked open. I’m not sure if Joey had been scratching at it or it just opened because it had grown so big so fast, but there was a foul odor coming from it.
I immediately got him in to see my vet who suspected cancer. Even if it wasn’t cancer, it needed to be removed as quickly as possible to avoid infection so he was operated on the next day.
Turns out it was cancerous and a fast-growing kind. Fortunately, though, it was isolated and hadn’t gone to any other organs so he didn’t need radiation or chemotherapy.
Joey was 13 when this happened and despite the warning from my vet that it would probably come back, it never did. He lived almost another 6 years.
Cancer can strike almost any animal, and our pets are no exception. Like many diseases, cancer is more common in older animals but can affect pets of any age. So, without becoming or getting paranoid about it, you want to be on the alert for possible signs of trouble.
According to Cancer Vet Centers, the 5 most common types of cancers that dogs get are:
- Bone Cancer also known as Osteosarcoma
- Mast Cell Tumors
Of course, they can get other kinds of cancer but those are the most common types.
The possible warning signs of cancer in chihuahuas are about the same as for any dog and can also be potential indicators of a wide array of other health problems.
Only your veterinarian can determine if your pet has cancer for sure. By all means, if you spot one of these signs, have your vet check it out. It might mean nothing more than a minor issue and knowing that would contribute a lot to your peace of mind!
Look out for these signs, especially in chihuahuas over the age of 10:
• Lumps or swellings that persist for more than a short period of time
• Sores, especially with bleeding or discharge
• Unexplained weight loss (or gain) – especially a distended abdomen
• Loss of appetite
• Apparent difficulties with eating or swallowing
• Lethargy and lack of stamina
• Unusual odors (although remember, chihuahuas are prone to bad breath and dental issues)
• Unexplained lameness
• Indications that the dog is uncomfortable in certain physical positions
• Digestive symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea
• Changes in elimination habits
• Respiratory difficulties
• Odd behavioral
Can cancer in dogs be prevented?
Not always, and not consistently. Of course, a well-cared-for dog such as yours will present fewer health problems generally, but cancer does not always respect your best efforts.
Are all dog tumors malignant?
Certainly not – no more so than in humans. Your vet can advise you on the best way to deal with benign growths.
Can dog cancers be treated?
Often, yes. Admittedly, treatment is not guaranteed success and can be expensive. But it is often worth a try. A good veterinarian will present you with the full range of options from the least to most aggressive and the least to most costly.
Although sometimes there is no avoiding the worst-case scenario, in many instances, it is worth fighting for our chihuahuas. If we can gain them more years of life with no significant loss of quality, both we and the dogs are winners.
Paula Simons, DVM
This post has been fact-checked and approved by Dr. Paula Simons DVM. Find out more about Dr. Simons on our About page.