Although lung cancer is rare in dogs, cases are on the rise. At Northeast Veterinary Referral Hospital in Plains, Pennsylvania our oncology team uses advanced diagnostics and treatments to provide the best possible care to pets with cancer. In today's post, our vets share some of the symptoms of lung cancer in dogs, and the treatments available.
Lung Cancer in Dogs
Over the last 20 years vets have noticed an increase in the number of dogs diagnosed with lung cancer. While the reasons for this increase are unclear, it could partly be due to the overall increase in the longevity of dogs, since the disease is most often seen in older pets. Other possible reasons for the rise in the number of cases could be, improved diagnostics and awareness of the disease, or possibly increased exposure to cancer-causing agents in the environment.
Some breeds, including boxers, doberman pinschers, Australian shepherds, and Bernese mountain dogs appear to face a greater risk of developing lung cancer, however exposure to cigarette smoke also appears to play a role.
Primary vs Metastic Lung Tumors in Dogs
Lung tumors fall into 2 different categories:
Primary lung tumors are tumors which originate in the dog's lung. Although primary lung tumors are rare, when they do occur in dogs, a large percentage are cancerous. Sadly, primary lung tumors often spread to other parts of the dog's body including the lymph nodes, chest cavity, bones and brain.
Metastatic lung tumors are tumors originating from a cancer elsewhere in the body which has spread to the pet's lungs.
Signs of Lung Cancer in Dogs
Many dogs with a lung tumor show no related symptoms, while other dogs may display one or more of the following symptoms depending on the size and location of the tumor:
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid breathing
- Weight loss
- Difficulty breathing
- Hair loss
- Coughing and wheezing
- Reduced exercise tolerance
- Gastrointestinal ulcers
While both primary lung cancer and metastatic lung cancer have similar symptoms, coughing tends to be less common with metastatic tumors.
Diagnosing Lung Cancer
Since a large proportion of dogs show no symptoms, lung cancer is often detected when the dog has an x-ray or other diagnostic testing due to an unrelated health issue.
If your pet is displaying any of the symptoms listed above, book an examination for your dog with your primary care veterinarian as soon as possible. While the symptoms listed could be indicative of lung cancer in your pet, these symptoms could also be related to a number of other serious conditions in need of treatment. A clear diagnosis of your pet's health issue will allow your vet to begin appropriate treatment as quickly as possible.
Diagnostic testing for lung cancer in dogs typically begins with a chest x-ray. If your vet can see signs of a tumor in your dog's lung, an ultrasound guided aspirate, biopsy, abdominal ultrasound or CT scan may recommended. Following a diagnosis of lung cancer, further testing can be helpful in determining the best treatment options for your dog.
Treatment for Lung Cancer in Dogs
If your dog is diagnosed with lung cancer, surgery to remove the portion of the lung where the tumor is located may be recommended. Most dogs recover well from this procedure and return home quickly after the surgery. That said, if your dog's tumor cannot be surgically removed, or if the cancer has spread, chemotherapy and/or radiation may be recommended by your vet.
Life Expectancy For Dogs With Lung Cancer
Sadly, for dogs diagnosed with lung cancer the prognosis is poor. Dogs treated for a single primary lung tumor which has not spread to the lymph nodes have 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. For best treatment outcomes, early diagnosis and treatment are essential.
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.