In dogs as in people, cancer does not generally start affecting lifestyle in all-of-a-sudden fashion. More often, signs of the disease progress gradually and can be rather insidious. There are 10 common warning signs that a dog may have cancer and should be taken to the veterinarian for a workup.
Rest assured that it does not automatically mean your dog has cancer if she exhibits any of these signs. They are not specific to cancer and could also indicate other illnesses, many of which are not life-threatening. For instance, difficulty eating might simply be the sign of painful tooth decay. But if a problem lasts at least a week or two and shows no signs of abating (even if it’s not on the list), a doctor’s visit is warranted. Better to go through the trouble of getting your dog to her vet for an exam than to wait and risk getting a cancer dianosis when it’s too late to treat effectively.
The tests your dog’s veterinarian performs to check for cancer will vary depending on the signs. Note that not all cancers can be seen — or felt. For that reason, a vet will often order imaging in the form of x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, or MRIs. None of these imaging tests is definitive for cancer; a mass seen on an ultrasound, for instance, can’t automatically be declared cancerous. But such tests can be highly suggestive, say, if they demonstrate invasiveness, and might lead to a biopsy — the gold standard for cancer detection.