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Cancer in Dogs

Cancer in Dogs

Dogs can be very good at hiding their pain. If your dog has been diagnosed with cancer, detecting and treating pain quickly are especially important. Today our Riverside Veterinary Clinic vets share the signs of cancer pain to watch for in your dog, and how cancer pain in dogs can be treated.

Cancer in Dogs

Cancer can occur in any part of your dog's body and could be causing unnecessary discomfort without you realizing that there is an issue. For that reason, pet parents need to be on alert for any signs of pain in their dog with cancer.

Types of Cancer Pain 

Because of a dog's lack of ability to speak, detecting cancer pain in dogs is challenging. Furthermore, understanding the nature of the pain (acute, chronic, or intermittent) and the level of the pain (dull or severe) can make understanding how your dog is feeling very challenging!

These challenges are further compounded by the fact that the onset of pain in dogs with cancer can occur and escalate very gradually over a long period, or in some cases pain may be caused by cancer treatment rather than cancer itself.

Signs of Pain in Dogs with Cancer

It may sound vague, however, if your dog begins displaying any behavior that is not typical for them, it could be an indication of pain. Some of the most common signs of pain in dogs include:

  • Limping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Aggression/Skittishness
  • Heavy panting

  • Trembling/Shaking
  • Excessive grooming
  • Increased vocalization

Many dog cancers occur later in life, so chances are good that you have had your dog for a few years and know their normal behavior well. So, keep your eye out for any behavior that seems strange or unusual for your pet. If your dog isn't acting like themselves, it's time for a trip to the vet.

Treating Cancer Pain in Dogs

Because there are so many variables regarding the type of pain your dog may be experiencing and why there are a host of pain relief medications and strategies that your vet may recommend to help improve your pet's quality of life. Below are a few common approaches to managing pain in dogs with cancer. It is also important to note that, your vet may recommend a combination of drugs or treatments to address your dog's pain.

Hot & Cold Therapy

  • Hot and cold therapy involving the application of ice packs to painful areas, can be particularly helpful in reducing inflammation. Speak to your vet about whether this is an appropriate approach for your pup.


  • Acupuncture can offer relief to dogs with cancer that are suffering from mild to moderate pain. If you are interested in acupuncture as a way to relieve your pet's pain, be sure to consult a qualified veterinary acupuncturist. 

Topical Medications

  • Topical ointments containing lidocaine, benzocaine, cortisone, or dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) may help to relieve different types of localized pain. Be sure to speak to your vet before applying any topical medications to your dog. Many human medications (even topical medications) can be toxic to pets. 

Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

  • There are several effective anti-inflammatory drugs that your vet may prescribe to help relieve your pup's mild to moderate cancer pain, including Metacam, Previcox, Deramaxx, and Rimadyl. These medications can impact the liver and kidneys so periodic blood tests will be required to monitor your pet's liver and kidney function while using these medications 


  • Tramadol is a common narcotic prescribed to help manage mild to moderate cancer pain in dogs. This medication is well tolerated by most dogs and can be used in high doses to treat more severe pain, or combined with NSAIDs.

Neurotransmitter Modifiers

  • When used alone, neurotransmitter modifiers can be useful in treating chronic low-grade cancer pain in dogs. When used in combination with other pain medications neurotransmitter modifiers can help to relax dogs suffering from cancer. Some of the most common drugs in this category include gabapentin, amantadine, and amitriptyline. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

If you feel like your dog is in pain and think they need to be evaluated, please contact our Riverside Veterinary Clinic vets right away for a consultation.

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Riverside Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Corpus Christi companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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