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How Do I Know if My Dog is in Pain from Cancer?

Dogs are known to hide their pain very well, and if your dog has been diagnosed with cancer, it is crucial to detect and treat pain as soon as possible. In this article, our veterinarians in Lebanon share some tips on how to tell if your dog is in pain from cancer. They also discuss how cancer pain in dogs can be treated.

Cancer in Dogs

Cancer is a serious health issue that can affect any part of your dog's body, even without you realizing it. Your furry friend may be experiencing unnecessary pain and discomfort due to cancer. As a responsible pet parent, it's essential to stay alert and watch out for any signs of pain or discomfort in your dog, which could be a symptom of cancer.

Types of Cancer Pain 

Detecting pain in dogs suffering from cancer is often a difficult task due to their inability to communicate through language.

Additionally, identifying the type of pain (acute, chronic, or intermittent) and the intensity of the pain (mild or severe) can be challenging, making it hard to understand how your dog is feeling.

Moreover, the onset of pain in cancer-afflicted dogs can occur gradually over a prolonged period or sometimes, it may be induced by cancer treatment rather than the cancer itself, further complicating the situation.

How to Tell if a Dog is in Pain From 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
  • Increased vocalization
  • Aggression/Skittishness
  • Heavy panting

  • Trembling/shaking
  • Excessive grooming

It's common for dogs to develop cancer as they age. This means that if you have had your dog for a while, you probably know their normal behavior quite well. Be on the lookout for any unusual behavior that your pet exhibits. If your dog is not acting like their usual self, it's best to take them to the vet for a checkup.

Treating Cancer Pain in Dogs

Because there are so many variables regarding the type of pain your dog may be experiencing and why, your vet may recommend a host of pain relief medications and strategies 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 heat or ice packs to painful areas, can reduce inflammation. Consult with your vet to see if it's appropriate for your dog.


  • 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 that contain lidocaine, benzocaine, cortisone, or dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) can help relieve different types of localized pain. However, it is essential to speak with your veterinarian before using any topical medication on your dog. Many human medications, including topical medications, can be toxic to pets.

Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

  • There are many 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. Most dogs will tolerate this medication, which 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. 

Veterinary Oncology at Cumberland Animal Hospital in Lebanon

Our veterinarians at Cumberland Animal Hospital inLebanon use advanced diagnostics and treatments to provide high-quality care for pets with cancer. 

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

If you suspect that your dog is experiencing pain due to cancer, please contact our veterinary team in Lebanon for more information on specialized services.

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Cumberland Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Lebanon companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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