Gastric carcinoma in dogs

Gastric carcinoma in dogs

Health & Safety

Dogs can suffer from many forms of cancer much like humans, one of which is gastric carcinoma or gastric cancer. Most cases are diagnosed in dogs when they are anything from 8 to 10 years old and older. Gastric cancer is a common form of the disease seen in dogs but it is responsible for just 1% of all malignant tumours seen in our canine friends. The cancer can affect any breed, but research has found that dogs that have been exposed to nitrosamines which are found in many food products which are preserved using “nitrite” pickling salt over an extended period of time, are more susceptible to developing the cancer than dogs that have not be exposed to it. Research has also suggested that German Shepherds are more predisposed to developing gastric carcinoma as a genetic disorder.

The various types of gastric cancer

There are various types of gastric carcinoma which are as follows:

  • Areadenocarcinoma – a type of tumour that is often associated with stomach cancer and which is found in a dog’s glandular tissue. The disease is responsible for around 70 to 80% of malignancies starting out in a dog’s stomach wall before progressing to their gastric lymph nodes, the fat found in the bottom edge of their stomach, the liver, the oesophagus, adrenal glands, lungs, duodenum, pancreas and spleen. In certain cases, the cancer first develops in a dog’s testes with gastrointestinal stromal tumours being responsible for all gastric tumours seen in dogs
  • Lymphoma – this type of cancer starts out in a dog’s white blood cells and is sadly, the most common form of the disease. However, it is responsible for around 7 to 24% of all dogs dying of cancer of the gastrointestinal tract although it must not be confused with lymphoma cancer seen in dogs. Research has shown that male dogs are more susceptible to developing this form of cancer than their female counterparts and that certain breeds are more predisposed to the disease namely Boxers, Saint Bernards, Mastiffs, Airedales, Scottish Terriers and Bulldogs
  • Leiomyosarcoma – this form of cancer sees tumours developing on a dog’s stomach walls as well as their bladder, uterus walls and respiratory tract. The cancer spreads to other parts of a dog’s system which is typically the liver, spleen, kidneys and lymph nodes
  • Mast cell tumours – this type of cancer negatively impacts a dog’s digestive tract, their lungs, nose and their skin. Mast cells form part of a dog’s immune system protecting them against inflammation and allergies. They are found throughout a dog’s system which includes their digestive tracts, lungs, noses and skin. When things go wrong, they release too much heparin and histamine which as a result causes a tremendous amount of damage to the body

Symptoms associated with the gastric carcinoma

The most common symptoms associated with this form of canine cancer and which owners tend to notice first are as follows:

  • Vomiting with blood in it
  • Anorexia
  • Loss of condition and body weight

However, other symptoms to watch out for include the following:

  • Increased barking and vocalisation
  • Licking, chewing and/or scratching at certain areas of the body
  • Listlessness
  • Irregular bowel movements and urination

Treatment options

Once a vet has established a firm diagnosis that a dog is suffering from one of the forms of gastric cancer, they would recommend some form of treatment if it is an option. However, most cases are so advanced, that there is not much that can be done because the tumours and/or lesions are so big and obstructive that surgery is not an option. Should the cancer be caught early enough, a vet might suggest a dog undergoes chemotherapy once tumours have been surgically removed.


The prognosis for dogs suffering from gastric carcinoma tends to be poor since most cases are only diagnosed once the cancer has spread to other parts of the body and is therefore in its advanced stage. As such, most dogs that have been diagnosed as having developed gastric carcinoma typically succumb to their symptoms anything from 1 to 6 months later.

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