Lung Cancer In Dogs, Symptoms & Treatment Options
Lung cancer is a serious diagnosis in our canine companions. While lung tumors are relatively rare in our furry friends, they can creep into a dog’s life and seriously impact their health. So what is lung cancer and how do dogs fall victim to this disease?
In this article we will dive into the details of lung cancer in dogs, and help you better understand this diagnosis going forward!
Can Dogs Get Lung Cancer?
Yes, unfortunately dogs can get lung cancer. While canine lung cancer may have different environmental triggers and causes, they are still just as susceptible to the disease as you and I. Because of this, it is important to be aware of the possible factors that can put our furry friends at risk. To better understand lung cancer in our pups, let us discuss the details!
How Do Dogs Get Lung Cancer?
Though the exact cause of any cancer is unknown, there are a few factors that are known to put our canine companions at risk of developing this illness. The most common causes of lung cancer in dogs includes:
- Metastasis of another cancer into the lungs (this is the most common cause of lung cancer in dogs)
- Passive inhalation of smoke in their environment, or second hand smoking
- Living in a suburban area with high levels of pollution
- Previous diagnosis of another cancer
- Genetic links to lung cancer or other types of cancer
Are Some Dog Breeds Prone To Lung Cancer?
For reasons that are still unknown, there are some dog breeds that seem to be more prone to developing lung cancer. Whether it is the breed themselves or the environments they generally live in, these common breeds seem to struggle with this disease more than other furry friends.
Breeds that are most prone to lung cancer include:
- Australian Shepherds
- Doberman Pinschers
- Irish Setters
- Golden Retrievers
- Bernese Mountain Dogs
If you have a pup that falls into this category, it is best to keep up with their yearly vet visits to monitor for any developing illness. Keep in mind that just because your dog breed might not be listed above, does not mean they cannot get lung cancer. Our black Labrador was recently diagnosed with lung cancer caused by Metastasis.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer in Dogs
Since lung cancer affects the respiratory system in our furry friends, most of the symptoms of this disease will reflect that. However, there are some other symptoms that lung cancer can cause in dogs if the disease has spread to other parts of the body.
Some of the most common signs of lung cancer include:
- Labored breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Getting winded easily
- Coughing up fluid or blood
- Lethargy or lack of energy
- Decline in appetite
- Weight loss
- Muscle loss
- Chest and abdominal pain
Other Signs Of Lung Cancer & Complications
Aside from the symptoms we listed above, there are some other signs of lung cancer that you may see in the late stages of the disease. Lung cancer in dogs can cause serious respiratory complications, many of which cause great concern in pet parents.
The most common complication of lung cancer in dogs is fluid buildup in the lungs, or pleural effusion.
Pleural effusion is a serious complication that can cause respiratory distress in our furry friends, and requires immediate action due to how challenging it can be for a dog to breathe properly. Due to the build up of fluid in the lungs, most dogs experience labored breathing, coughing, and even collapse.
Due to the serious symptoms, most pet parents rush their pups into the vet from the moment the symptoms arise. Pleural effusion can be relieved by a procedure called a thoracentesis, which involves draining the fluid in the lungs with a small needle.
Diagnosing Lung Cancer In Dogs
Most lung tumors in dogs are diagnosed incidentally through x-rays. Most dogs are often having x-rays performed for different reasons, and veterinarians stumble across the tumor during this diagnostic. Since this is the main way to diagnose lung cancer in dogs, an x-ray will be your vet’s preferred diagnostic tool if they are experiencing any respiratory symptoms. This is also why many vets recommend yearly x-rays in senior dogs. Your veterinarian may also recommend a CT scan to rule out any metastasis that is not seen on x-ray.
Another way to accurately diagnose lung cancer in dogs is through a fine needle aspirate (FNA) of fluid or tissue within the lungs, or a biopsy of the lung tumor. By pulling a small sample from the chosen area, the sample can be examined under a microscope (histopathology).
Treating Lung Cancer In Dogs
So you might be wondering if there is a treatment for lung cancer in dogs? While it can be challenging, there are a few options on the table. Before discussing any type of treatment though, it is best for your veterinarian to assess your dog’s overall health. A successful treatment has everything to do with how healthy your dog is when going into a treatment option, and will greatly impact their overall prognosis.
Once your veterinarian has proved that your dog is fit to move forward with a treatment option, there are a few routes that your vet may take. The first treatment option for lung tumors in dogs is surgery. Your veterinarian may recommend the removal of your dog’s lung tumor with an endoscopy, which would also allow them to explore the chest at the same time. Your dog must be fit for surgery and undergo this procedure with an oncologist.
The next treatment option is a combination of radiation and chemotherapy. This is a common route if your dog’s cancer has spread, or if there are any areas of the tumor that your veterinarian is unable to remove. This is also a route that pet owners may take if a dog is not healthy enough to undergo surgery.
While these options have been successful in treating many dogs with lung cancer, this is a challenging condition to beat. Almost 70% of dogs with lung cancer experience metastasis (source) to other parts of the lung, meaning treatment may only prolong their life rather than eliminating the disease completely.
Life Expectancy of a Dog With Lung Cancer
The life expectancy of a dog with lung cancer will vary based on their overall health and the stage of the disease when it was diagnosed. Though every dog will vary, there are a few averages to expect.
If your dog is diagnosed with lung cancer due to an immediate respiratory crisis as a result of the cancer, their prognosis is poor. If a dog is experiencing any serious respiratory symptoms or decline in their health, this is often a sign that the cancer is severe or it has spread to other parts of the body. A dog’s life expectancy at this point can be hours to days.
However, if a lung tumor is found incidentally and your dog is not displaying any symptoms, they may have a life expectancy of up to 1 year. If they are found to be in decent health and are a good candidate for treatment, their life expectancy can be expanded even longer.
To have the most accurate answer on your dog’s prognosis, we recommend speaking with your veterinarian or oncologist.
When To Put Down My Dog With Lung Cancer
If your dog is diagnosed with lung cancer, you may wonder when is the right time to say goodbye. Cancer can affect each dog in a different way, making it challenging to come to this decision. To help you make an informed decision on putting your dog to sleep, let us discuss the signs of end stage lung cancer in dogs.
It may be time to put down your dog with lung cancer if they are experiencing any of the below signs:
- Labored breathing that impacts their daily life
- Frequent coughing or coughing up fluid/blood
- Respiratory distress
- Weight loss or muscle wasting
- Disinterest in activities they once enjoyed
- Severe respiratory complications such as pleural effusion or infection
- Lameness or limping, as this means the cancer has spread
If your dog is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it may be time to discuss quality of life with your veterinarian.
As you can see, lung cancer can drastically impact our beloved companions. Be sure to review the details we discussed above, and you can better understand the diagnosis of lung cancer in dogs going forward.
My name is Amber. I am a dedicated animal lover that turned my passion into my career. I am a Licensed Vet Tech with 10 years of experience in veterinary medicine, but I recently took my career online to help spread accurate information on animal care. With how vast the online world is, I have a strong desire to ensure that the reader always walks away with helpful pet advice. With the experience I’ve gained from my time in this field, I have been able to travel the world, offering my services to as many animal rescues as I can find. If I am not at my laptop, or back home visiting family, you can find me somewhere in the world, cuddling every furry friend that I can find! Read more about us here.