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What is Cancer?

Cancer, regardless of the species in which it occurs, is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. Cancer cells develop because of damage to DNA. Dogs can inherit damaged DNA, which accounts for some hereditary cancers. More often, though, a dog's DNA becomes damaged by exposure to something in the environment, such as tobacco smoke, pesticides or other carcinogens.

Not all tumors are cancerous. Benign (noncancerous) tumors do not spread to other parts of the body and, with very rare exceptions, are not life threatening. Malignant tumors can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body, where they begin to grow and replace normal tissue. Regardless of where a cancer may spread, however, it is usually named for the place it began.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs over the age of 2 years, and risk increases with age. Some breeds are also more susceptible to certain cancers. Feeding your dog a healthy diet, providing regular exercise and avoiding known carcinogens will help reduce the cancer risk. Spaying or neutering your dog may also reduce the risk for developing certain cancers. If cancer is diagnosed, your veterinarian will discuss the best treatment options for your dog. Treatment success depends on the type and extent of the cancer, as well as the aggressiveness of therapy. Many cancers can be cured, and all patients can be helped to some degree with a proactive plan to provide supportive therapy and pain management.

Types of Cancer and Information about Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Mast Cell
Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Morris Animal Foundation urges pet owners not to implement any suggestions on animal health treatments without prior consultation with their licensed veterinarian. If your pet is experiencing health issues, contact your licensed veterinarian. The Foundation funds research to enhance medical options available to veterinary professionals and their patients.