As pets get older, owners tend to know when our pets are not feeling well or when a lump suddenly “pops” up on our pet. After visiting your local veterinarian, he may give you the words that you do not want to hear—it may be cancer. While the diagnosis can be devastating and painful to hear, it is important to remember there are many different forms of cancer and not all are viewed as terminal.
As with any illness or sickness, it is best to detect cancer at its earliest by bringing your pet in for regular veterinary check ups. Between examinations, it is best to monitor your pet for signs of cancer and schedule an appointment if any clinical signs appear. These may include:
- Abnormal bumps, lumps and swelling on the body
- Sores that will not heal
- Unexplained weight loss or appetite changes
- Bleeding from any body opening
- Unpleasant odor
- Difficulty urinating or defecating
- Persistent lameness
- Drooling or any sign of mouth discomfort
If you suspect that your pet has cancer, it is very important to have as much accurate information as possible for your veterinarian when treating your pet. It is essential to have an accurate diagnosis and your pet’s cancer correctly staged. This will help your veterinarian determine how advanced the cancer is and what possible success rates are for various treatments. Your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic procedures like laboratory tests, biopsies, x-rays, ultrasound or even surgical exploratories.
If perhaps we have a diagnosis of cancer, the goal is to provide your pet with the highest quality of life as long as possible. Dogs and cats tend to tolerate chemotherapy and radiation very well. When side effects do occur, your veterinarian can prescribe anti-nausea and pain medication, as well as nutritional support to keep your pet comfortable during treatment.
With some cases, we may come across cases where the cancer is advanced and your veterinarian may recommend palliative care only. This means that your pet’s veterinary team will keep your pet as comfortable as long as possible and not pursue more aggressive treatments. The primary goal is to maintain the best quality of life possible for your pet.
When dealing with cancer, it is important to watch your pet closely for signs of discomfort and pain and keep your veterinarian informed. Keep all follow up appointments scheduled and stay in contact with your veterinarian. We are here to help. It is also important to spend as much time as possible with your pet and provide a quiet, comfortable place to rest and sleep. Providing nutritional support and fresh water are also important. You may need to make access to an area for your pet to urinate and defecate because of the cancer treatments. Above all, enjoy the time that you have left with your pet.
During the course of treatment, your pet may start having more “bad” days than “good” days. When you feel that you have done all that you can do for your pet, it may be time to consider euthanasia. It is not a time to feel guilty about any decisions you make. This is a difficult decision as most owners weigh not seeing a pet suffer against a desire to not deprive the pet any more “good” days. When this time comes, be sure to communicate with your veterinarian. Communicate your pet’s medical status and learn what to expect in the days and weeks ahead. Talk to your veterinarian and find out what options are available for your beloved pet in case euthanasia is needed to alleviate the discomfort of your pet.
Don’t live under a cloud of doom and fear. It is best to live life to its fullest. We all live in the “Circle of Life”. Don’t waste the “life” part. Remember there is always hope and it is best to take one day at a time and appreciate the life that is left in your pet.
For more information, or questions and concerns, don’t hesitate to contact our office.