A lump, a limp, a loss of appetite. Notice one of these in your dog and your first thought is likely to be, “Huh. Wonder what’s causing that?” Your second thought may be, “Could it be cancer?” It’s a reasonable question, especially if your dog is middle-aged or older. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), one in four dogs will develop some form of cancer during their lifetimes.

What Is Cancer?

When cells begin replicating uncontrollably, the growth is called a neoplasm (literally, new growth), or tumor. A neoplasm can be either benign or malignant; only malignant neoplasms are considered cancers. As the AVMA notes on its website, “Benign neoplasms tend to grow slowly; displace, but do not tend to invade, the surrounding body tissues; and do not spread throughout the body. Malignant neoplasms, on the other hand, can be unpredictable and grow at…

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