TW // Cigarettes & Pets: Get our guide to risk factors for the ‘Big C’

October 7, 2022

Trigger Warning – This article contains subject matter that some readers might find upsetting.

November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month. In this article, our East Molesey surgical team are exploring the different types of pet cancers, and taking a closer look at how passive smoking can harm pets in our downloadable guide.

Cigarettes & Pets – Download our guide

Types of cat and dog cancers

The ‘big C’ affects dogs and cats in big numbers; it is expected that around half of dogs over the age of 10 are likely to develop cancer.

There are several types of canine and feline cancers including mast cell tumours, brain tumours, lymphoma, bladder cancer, mammary carcinoma, mouth and nose cancers, melanoma, testicular cancer, and prostate cancer. Here are some quick facts:

  1. Cancer mostly affects middle-aged and older pets but young pets can get it too.
  2. Other health issues, such as obesity, can be a factor with some cancers.
  3. Passive smoking can increase the risk of certain types of cancer – nasal and lung cancers in dogs (as well as causing eye problems, allergies, and respiratory problems) and blood cancer lymphoma and mouth cancer in cats.
  4. Unneutered female cats and dogs can be at risk of uterine or ovarian cancer, and a higher risk of mammary tumours (breast cancer – this can also affect male pets).
  5. Unneutered male cats and dogs can be at risk of testicular cancer and prostate cancer.
  6. Some dog breeds are more susceptible to certain cancers such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Boxers, Beagles, and Great Danes.

Only a vet can diagnose cancer in pets, so it is important to keep up with 6-12 monthly health checks.


Spotting canine and feline cancer can be difficult sometimes and will depend on many factors. According to Vet Darren Partridge, the most common symptoms are:

  • Abnormal odours coming from the mouth, ears, or any other body parts
  • Abnormal discharge from the eyes, mouth, ears, or rectum
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Appetite loss
  • Bleeding that is unexplained
  • Change in appetite
  • Changes in toileting habits – typically difficulty passing urine
  • Chronic vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Coughing that is persistent
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Digestive problems that won’t settle
  • Enlarging lumps and bumps underneath your dog’s skin
  • Lethargy
  • Limping / lameness
  • Pain (shown by agitation, yelping, growling/snappy, sensitive when touched, resents normal handling, quiet/less active, hiding, limping, depressed, stops eating, breathing difficulties)
  • Sudden weight loss and failure to regain the weight
  • Swollen lymph nodes (throughout body, most easily detectable behind the jaw and knees)
  • Wounds or sores that won’t heal


When treating cancer in dogs or cats, different factors will influence the treatment options such as age, overall health of the pet, the type of cancer and its behaviour, and the stage it’s at. Cancer therapies for pets are similar to human treatments – surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and holistic & herbal therapies can benefit in some cases.

However, Darren advises that it is important to understand that not all pets can cope with or will respond to treatment, as well as the long-term prognosis and quality of life your pet can expect during and after any treatment. If a diagnosis is made, our experienced vets will talk to you about all of this. If your pet’s case requires a specialist referral, we can arrange that too.

At Molesey Vets in Surrey, we are here to support you and your pet every step of the way. If you have any concerns, contact us for advice. Ask us about canine cancer.

Don’t forget to download our guide on Cigarettes & Pets:

Download our passive smoking pet guide

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