Lung cancer can be a life-threatening condition for dogs. It can be of two types - primary and metastatic lung cancer. So, when the cancerous tumors develop or originate in the lung itself, it is called primary lung cancer. Such tumors can be carcinomas or hemangiosarcomas. On the other hand, in metastatic lung cancer, the cancerous tumors develop somewhere else in the body, and then spread to the lung. Though the primary cancer of the lung is rare, the cancerous cells from other parts of the body can spread to the lung, and cause metastatic cancer.
The exact causes of this cancer have not been ascertained. However, it is believed that the exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke can be an important factor, that can lead to the development of tumors in the lung. Additionally, it has been observed that the incidence of this cancer is slightly higher in dogs living in urban areas.
So far, no dog breed has been found to be predisposed to develop this cancer. But still, this cancer has been observed to be more prevalent in dogs having a short or medium nose. It is suspected that when the nose is short, secondhand smoke can easily enter the lung, and cause the development of tumors.
Symptoms of Canine Lung Cancer
In the early stage of the disease, the affected dog may not exhibit any clinical signs or symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, the following signs and symptoms can be observed:
- A chronic cough, usually nonproductive, but sometimes mucus and blood can be present
- Breathing difficulty or dyspnea, caused by the compression of the trachea by the enlarging tumor
- Lameness, when the cancer spreads to the limbs
- Lethargy and unexplained fatigue
- Weight loss
- Loss of Appetite
Diagnosis and Treatment
It is difficult to diagnose this condition in the initial stage due to the absence of any specific symptoms. This cancer is usually detected with the help of a chest X-ray. If the presence of a tumor in the lung is detected, then aspiration and biopsy are carried out to find out if the tumor is malignant.
Surgery is the most common treatment option for this condition. But before performing surgery, another series of tests and examinations, like blood count test, urinalysis, chest radiograph, etc., are carried out. For primary lung cancer, the cancerous tumor is surgically removed. If the tumor is very large, and it is not possible to remove the tumor completely, then veterinarians try to remove as much of it as possible.
After surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy can be recommended by the veterinarians. If surgery is not possible, especially when the condition is detected in the advanced stage, then veterinarians have to rely on chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can help slow down the progression of the cancer. For metastatic cancer, the main treatment options are chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In the meantime, if the dog is in severe pain, then veterinarians can prescribe pain killers.
For preventing lung cancer, it is essential to minimize the exposure to smoke, especially tobacco smoke. Pet owners should remain vigilant against the disease by carefully monitoring the signs of the cancer. At the same time, be sure to maintain the overall health and vigor of your dog, and give him a healthy diet to boost the immune system. Regular physical activity can also help keep your dog healthy and fit.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a veterinarian.