Changes in weight, appetite, and energy levels are all possible signs of colon cancer in your dog. Diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting also indicate a digestive problem in your pet. The thought of colon cancer is certainly a dire possibility, but keep in mind that there are many non-cancerous causes for these symptoms. Always take these warning signs seriously and take your dog to the vet for a medical evaluation.
Types of colon tumors
There are several types of tumors that can appear in your dog’s digestive system. While many cases of bowel cancer in canines are malignant, it is also possible for tumors to be benign and there is no significant risk of spread. Lymphomas and lymphomas are malignancies that make up nearly half of all reported cases of colon cancer, according to the National Canine Cancer Foundation. Dogs can develop smaller benign growths, polyps or adenomas, in the membrane at the end of the colon near the rectum. Even benign carcinomas can pose a deadly danger to your pet if their size or number impedes normal digestive function.
Prevalence factors and risk factors
Bowel tumors affect less than 10 percent of dogs, so you don’t have to worry about colon cancer in your pup. This type of cancer is most common in adult male dogs, although it can affect dogs of any sex or age. Collies and German Shepherds are believed to have a genetic predisposition to chondrosarcoma and other colon cancers compared to the average, according to the Rhine Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Colon cancer is difficult to diagnose at home, because the early symptoms resemble a host of gastrointestinal disorders. Affected dogs usually have a lack of appetite, which leads to weight loss and lethargy from low blood sugar levels. Vomiting, frequent diarrhea, and other severe GI symptoms appear as the cancer grows or spreads. Changes in the composition or color of the stool should raise a warning sign right away, as cancer can cause internal blood loss and other life-threatening problems in your pet. Contact your vet immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.
If your vet believes that colon cancer may be the root cause of your pet’s health problems, he or she will perform a physical exam and lab tests to reach a definitive diagnosis. Manual palpation or examination of the stomach is a common first step, followed by a rectal examination. Your vet may take blood samples to look for changes in the internal chemistry, which can help him or her find the location and type of cancer. High levels of calcium in the blood are a sign of lymphoma, while lesions of the colon may reduce the amount of protein present. Your vet may perform x-rays or ultrasounds to take pictures of your dog’s colon and small intestine.
Treatment and diagnosis
Lymphomas and other malignant colon cancers can spread to the lymphatic system of the lungs, and other internal organs. In cases where the cancer has spread, chemotherapy may be the only viable treatment option. Surgery can remove isolated growths in the intestine, although the size and bumpiness of the tumors affects the success rate. Dogs who survive surgical treatment for some types of colon cancer, such as leiomyosarcoma and lesions of the colon and rectum, have a good shot at recovery. Unfortunately, puppies with metastatic tumors usually succumb to the cancer within a few months. Even if treating the disease is not a viable option, there are medications that can temporarily relieve your pet’s discomfort and help restore its digestive function.