While lung cancer is rare in dogs, cases are on the rise. At Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Huntersville, our board-certified oncologist uses advanced diagnostics and treatments to provide the best possible care to pets with cancer. Here is what you should know about the symptoms and treatments for lung cancer in dogs.
Lung Cancer in Dogs
In the past 20 years there has been an increase in the number of cases of lung cancer in dogs being diagnosed by vets. The reason for this increase is unclear, however it may be due to the overall increased longevity of dogs since the disease is most often found in older dogs around 10 - 12 years of age.
Other possible reasons for the increase in the number of cases of lung cancer in dogs could be, improved diagnostics and awareness of the disease, or possibly increased exposure to cancer-causing agents in the environment.
Some breeds appear to be more at risk of developing lung cancer including boxers, doberman pinschers, australian shepherds, and bernese mountain dogs, however exposure to cigarette smoke has also been linked to this condition.
Types of Lung Cancers:
- 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, lining of the chest cavity, bones and brain.
- Metastatic lung tumors are tumors that originate from a cancer elsewhere in the dog's body then spread to the lungs.
Signs & Symptoms of Lung Cancer in Dogs
Without diagnostic testing it can be challenging to detect lung cancer in dogs. Approximately 25% of dogs with a lung tumor show no related symptoms. That said, if your dog is developed a lung tumor you may notice one or more of the following signs depending on the size and location of the tumor:
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid breathing
- Weight loss
- Labored breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Hair loss
- Loss of appetite
- Reduced exercise tolerance
- Gastrointestinal ulcers
Both primary lung cancer and metastatic lung cancer have similar symptoms although coughing is less common with metastatic tumors.
Diagnosis of Lung Cancer
Since approximately 3/4 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 condition.
If your dog is displaying symptoms of lung cancer, book an examination for your dog at your primary care veterinarian. If lung cancer is suspected, speak to your vet about a referral to our Board-Certified Veterinary Oncologist.
Chest x-rays are typically the first step in making a diagnosis of lung cancer. If the chest x-ray shows signs of a tumor in the lung, an ultrasound guided aspirate or biopsy, abdominal ultrasound or CT scan may be the next steps in the diagnostic process. Following diagnosis further testing may be helpful in determining the extent of cancer in the dog's body.
Treatment of Lung Cancer in Dogs
If your dog is diagnosed with lung cancer, your vet may recommend surgery to remove the portion of the lung where the tumor is located. Most dogs tolerate this surgery well and are able to return home soon after the procedure.
If your dog's tumor cannot be surgically removed, or if the cancer has spread, chemotherapy and/or radiation may be the recommended treatment.
Prognosis - Life Expectancy
Sadly, for dogs diagnosed with lung cancer the outlook is 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.