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Symptoms of Lung Cancer in Dogs

Our oncology team at Pacific & Santa Cruz Veterinary Specialists provides advanced diagnosis and care for dogs with cancer. In today's post, we delve into the topic of lung cancer in dogs, including signs and treatment options.

About Canine Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a disease most often found in older dogs around 10 - 12 years of age. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of cases of lung cancer in dogs being diagnosed by veterinarians, however, the increase may largely be due to the fact that our dogs are now living much longer than they ever have. 

Other possible reasons for the increase in cases could be, improved diagnostics and awareness of the disease, or possibly increased exposure to cancer-causing agents.

While exposure to cigarette smoke has also been linked to this condition, it appears that some breeds are more likely to develop lung cancer than others. Some of the breeds at increased risk include boxers, Doberman pinschers, Australian shepherds, and Bernese mountain dogs.

Types of Dog Lung Cancer

  • Primary lung tumors are tumors that originate in the dog's lung. While primary lung tumors are rare in dogs, when they do occur, more than 80% are cancerous. Sadly, these tumors have a moderate to high chance of spreading to other parts of the dog's body including the lymph nodes, the lining of the chest cavity, bones and brain.
  • Metastatic lung tumors are tumors that originate from cancer elsewhere in the dog's body and then spread to the lungs.

What are lung cancer symptoms in dogs?

It can be challenging to detect lung cancer in dogs without diagnostic testing. It is estimated that 25% of dogs with a lung tumor show no related signs of cancer. When symptoms do become evident, signs of lung cancer in dogs can include any of the following depending on the size and location of the tumor:

  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Rapid breathing/wheezing
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Labored breathing
  • Lameness
  • Hair loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduced exercise tolerance
  • Fever
  • Gastrointestinal ulcers

Primary lung cancer and metastatic lung cancer both have similar symptoms although coughing tends to be less common with metastatic tumors.

How is dog lung cancer diagnosed?

Because a large percentage of dogs show no signs of lung cancer, tumors are often detected when the dog has an X-ray or other diagnostic testing due to an unrelated condition.

If you've noticed that your dog is displaying signs of lung cancer, contact our veterinary oncology team to book an examination for your four-legged family member.

The primary way that vets confirm a diagnosis of lung cancer in dogs is through a chest x-ray. If the X-ray shows signs of a lung tumor, an ultrasound-guided aspiration or biopsy, abdominal ultrasound or CT scan may be the next steps in the diagnostic process.

Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, further testing may be helpful in determining the extent of cancer in your pup's body.

Can you treat lung cancer in dogs?

In some cases, surgery to remove the portion of the lung where the tumor is located can be successful. Most dogs tolerate this surgery well and are able to return home soon after the procedure. If however your dog's tumor cannot be surgically removed, or if the cancer has spread, chemotherapy and/or radiation may be the recommended treatment option.

What is the prognosis for dogs diagnosed with lung cancer?

Sadly, when it comes to lung cancer in dogs life expectancy outlooks are poor. A dog diagnosed and treated for a single primary lung tumor that has not spread to the lymph nodes has an average survival time of about 12 months, however, if the dog's lymph nodes also show signs of cancer or if multiple tumors are found life expectancy is only about 2 months.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Our board-certified veterinary oncologist at Pacific & Santa Cruz Veterinary Specialists provides advanced care to pets dealing with cancer. Contact our Santa Cruz animal hospital today to learn more about our oncology services.

New Patients Welcome

Pacific & Santa Cruz Veterinary Specialists is always accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about restoring good health to Santa Cruz companion animals. We are open 24/7 to provide your pet with care, whenever they need us.

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(831) 475-5400