Incidents of pet cancer appear to be increasing, accounting for nearly half the deaths of pets over ten years of age. We want to help you identify symptoms, which lead to early detection and better outcomes of survival.
The most important thing you can do is to be attentive, know when your pet is acting abnormal or changing in behavior. The following list are signs that may indicate your pet has cancer. This list of symptoms can also correlate with other issues, and a single symptom does not mean your pet has cancer. Please give us a call and bring your pet in for an evaluation so we can make an accurate diagnosis.
Things To Look For:
- Unusual discharges from mouth, eyes, nose or other parts of your pet
- Difficulty and/or frequency of urination or defecation - be aware of any blood in urine or stool
- Slow healing or non-healing sores
- Unusual smells from your pet’s mouth or body
- Has a hard time chewing or swallowing
- Energy level is down and they don’t want to exercise
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Lumps that are getting bigger or swelling
- Lameness or stiffness
- Coughing or difficulty breathing
Now that you know what to look for, regularly check in with your pet.
Most Common Types of Neoplasia in Dogs and Cats
Cancer is common language for “neoplasia”. Neoplasia comes from the word neoplasm, which is the uncontrolled abnormal growth of cells or tissue in the body. Some growths are benign. Others are malignant - growing rapidly and invading other tissues - and this is generally what we call cancer. Dogs get cancer at roughly the same rate as humans, while cats have lower rates of cancers. Here are the common types of cancer:
- Skin Cancer: Common in older dogs, but less so in cats. Most skin cancers in dogs are benign while most skin cancers in cats are malignant.
- Mammary or Breast Cancer: Spaying your female pet before 12 months of age will greatly reduce the risk of breast cancer. Breast cancer malignancy in dogs is 50% and cats 85%.
- Mouth and Nose Cancer: Mouth cancer is more common in dogs than cats. It must be caught early, as it is aggressive. Nose cancer affects dogs and cats equally.
- Lymphoma: Common in dogs and cats and is the enlargement of one or more lymph nodes in the body. A contagious feline leukemia virus can be the cause of lymphoma in cats.
- Testicular Cancer: It’s more common in dogs, while rare in cats. Dogs whose testicles did not move to their normal position during growth are more susceptible.
- Abdominal Cancer: This is common in the abdomen, but difficult to make an early diagnosis.
- Bone Cancer: Most often seen in large breed dogs, and dogs over 7 years of age. Bone cancer is rare in cats.
Treatment of Pet Cancer
Each type of cancer is as individual as your pet. Treatment may include one or a combination of treatment therapies: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, cryosurgery (freezing) hyperthermia (heating) or immunotherapy.
Some types of cancer can be cured, but other types can only be managed. In these cases, we want to decrease the spread of abnormal growth and prolong your pet’s life and comfort, for as long as possible. Early detection is the most important determinant of success.
Once we have a diagnosis:
- We will discuss the best options and the risks and side effects associated with each treatment.
- We may recommend dietary changes to improve the overall health of your pet. This may help your pet better respond to treatment.
- We will discuss a pain management plan.
- We may refer you to a board-certified oncologist (cancer specialist) and/or specialty clinic depending upon the recommended course of treatment.
Genetics, Environment or Both
What causes cancer in pets? Well, the answer is complicated and unclear because research has not defined an answer. The causes of cancer seem to boil down to a combination of environmental and genetic influences, which may have occurred long before your pet’s diagnosis.
The fact that certain breeds have higher occurrences of cancer does suggest a genetic trigger may be the cause. We do know genetic mutations can occur in the reproductive cells of male and female animals, and these can be passed on to offspring. Mutations can also be caused by a naturally occurring hormone. But, most mutations that happen during the lifetime of a dog or cat were never present at birth.
Veterinary cancer researchers see environmental influences as a cause of pet cancer. Carcinogens like smoke, pesticides, and asbestos are on the list. Sources of these carcinogens include: waste incinerators and polluted sites. Other sources are yes, radioactive waste, UV light, even canned cat foods. Not to mention viruses, hormones and nutrition.
What to Expect in the Future
Every day there is constant improvement in the fight against pet cancer. Experience, research, and early detection is developing better success rates less risk of side effects for our pets.
AVMA – Brochure “Cancer in Animals”