Lung cancer in dogs: causes, symptoms, treatments and prevention


Lung cancer remains a rare disease in dogs. But if your four-legged friend has had the bad luck of developing such cancer, or if you just want to learn more about it, here is some information on the causes, symptoms and treatments for this cancer.

What is lung cancer in dogs?

In dogs, the mechanism of cancer is the same as that at work in the body of a human: it is a dysfunction in the reproduction of certain cells in the body. Some of them begin to transform and become abnormal, then multiply in an anarchic and excessive way.

Regarding lung cancer in dogs, tumors develop in the lungs of the animal. Very often malignant, they usually spread to other parts of the body. They end up in the blood vessels and lymphatic vessels and create health problems up to the death of the animal.

What Causes Lung Cancer in Dogs?

Lung cancer in dogs does not have a single cause but results from the combination of a set of environmental and genetic factors. This cancer affects both male and female dogs, but some breeds have been observed to be more so than others, such as Boxers, Dobermans, Australian Shepherds, Bernese Mountain Dogs and Irish Setters.

Older dogs are more affected than younger ones. The extension of the life expectancy of dogs, due to the development of resources dedicated to the health of companion animals, as well as the quality of veterinary care, undoubtedly works in favor of an increase in cancer diagnoses.

Some studies have made it possible to hypothesize that exposure to tobacco smoke increases a dog’s risk of developing lung cancer: it is neither more nor less than the mechanism of passive smoking. It seems logical that domestic animals are as affected by this phenomenon as humans.

Symptoms of lung cancer in dogs

The signs that can alert a dog owner differ from animal to animal. The figures even show that almost 25% of dogs show no symptoms. The other 75%, however, present fairly classic symptoms with regard to the affected organ: difficulty in breathing.

Also, without systematically thinking about the worst, here are some signs to watch out for if you notice them in your dog:

  • he struggles to breathe,
  • he’s coughing,
  • he is reluctant to exercise when he is usually a dynamic dog,
  • he loses weight without loss of appetite,
  • he loses his appetite.

Lung cancer in dogs remains a difficult disease to diagnose. However, here again the comparison with the human being is valid: the more it is identified at an early stage, the more the chances of curing the animal are high.

When an animal is sick, owners often want to limit health expenses because not everyone has subscribed to a mutual fund capable of paying for examinations and treatments which can be financially heavy. Also, under these conditions, it is easier for a veterinarian to do diagnostic errors. A dog with lung cancer can therefore be treated with antibiotics. This will certainly reduce the clinical signs but without eradicating, of course, the cancer. The tumors then have time to develop and are detected late, when the animal’s condition deteriorates and an X-ray becomes necessary. The dog can also suffer from a secondary infection like Cadiot-Ball syndrome which causes lameness in the animal.

Treatment of lung cancer in dogs

The treatments that can be applied to treat a dog with lung cancer are the same as to treat cancer in humans: surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Surgery is only offered for the early stages, when the cancer is localized and the abnormal cells can be extracted. Radiotherapy or chemotherapy are then offered as a complement, to limit the resumption of the development of abnormal cells.

At more advanced stages, when the development of cells has reached the body as a whole, radiotherapy or chemotherapy alone are offered, without any real effectiveness having been demonstrated. With lung cancer, depending on the stage of the disease, a dog can die within 2 months to 2 years of being diagnosed.

Is it possible to prevent lung cancer in dogs?

Given the multiple causes of lung cancer, it is impossible to prevent this type of pathology. At most, the smoking owner of a dog can limit the exposure of his animal to tobacco smoke.