Cancer in Canines - Malignant Tumors

By Tess Thompson

The situation with regard to pet cancer has undergone a dramatic change. With advancement in pharmaceuticals and surgical procedures, it has now become easier to diagnose, treat, manage and improve the quality of the life of your canine friend.

To understand how tumors and cancer in dogs start, it is important to first get an inside view of how your dog grows in size. Similar to the growth process of any mammal, the cells in your dog also multiply by division. This process starts right from the time when a female egg is fertilized by the male sperm. Over and above the replacement of the cells that die over time, there are new cells that are formed.

As the puppy matures into a full-sized dog, cell multiplication is curbed to a certain extent. Now only dead cells are replaced as per the needs of the body organs. If the immune system is weak, the factors responsible for regulating replacement of dead cells are compromised. This results into an unregulated growth of cells that can lead to a single cell giving rise to a mass of cells that the body does not need. This unregulated growth of a mass of cells results in a tumor.

Such a growth can comprise of cells of different types:

  • Cells that occupy an organ and are similar to the normal cells in the organ - These cells behave as normal cells and do not spread to other parts of the body. They do not harm the dog and are known as benign tumors.
  • Cells that do not resemble the normal cell of an organ -These cells cannot be differentiated and behave abnormally. These make up a malignant tumor and can spread to adjacent organs and ultimately throughout the body of the dog.


Normally, cancer is classified by the organ it affects, for example, skin, lungs, stomach, nasal or breast. Malignant tumors are classified according to the embryonic ancestry of the normal cells from which they grow. All normal cells of animals develop from one of the three layers of the embryo - the endoderm, the ectoderm or the mesoderm.

The first two, the endoderm and the ectoderm, form into the gastrointestinal system, salivary glands, pancreas, liver and lungs, skin, lens of the eye, and central nervous system. The malignant growths that originate from these organs are called carcinomas.

The mesoderm layer develops into muscle, bone, cartilage, blood and connective tissue. Sarcomas are malignant tumors arising from connective tissue like bone or muscle, urinary and genital tracts and blood cells. Different types of leukemia are classified under sarcomas as the cell growth starts from blood constituents even though they do not form a tumor and grow as separate cells.

Whether it is cancer in dogs or feline cancer, there are very limited chances of an early manifestation of the symptoms of cancer. It requires keen observation of your pet to be able to link the various symptoms to cancer. For example, symptoms of liver cancer in dogs can be suspected if your dog refuses to eat, is vomiting or has a distended stomach. Early detection is an advantage for your dog as it can be treated with the help of chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. In later stages, the cancer growth may be far too widespread to ensure complete removal even after a surgery is performed.


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