Did you know that cancer is the number one disease-related killer of pets? Statistics show that one out of four dogs develop cancer while one out of five cats develop some form of cancer. Cancer is a broad term used to describe cells within the body that are growing and dividing in an abnormal manner and rate. These cells divide at uncontrolled rates and ofter form masses or tumors. Some growths can be benign while some may be malignant.
Since May has been designated Pet Cancer Awareness Month, I would like to offer some tips to pet owners to aid in early detection and possibly help extend the life of your pet. With regular checkups, early detection and diagnosis can possibly improve the odds of treating the cancer effectively.
Lumps and Bumps: Not all lumps and bumps are cancerous but there is no way to know for sure without getting your veterinarian involved. This is especially true if they are not resolving on their own. A veterinarian may do a needle biopsy and look at the cells in the mass under a microscope. By catching them early, complete removal can be achieved.
Abnormal odors: If you notice abnormal odors from your pets mouth, ears or other parts of their body, I would recommend having it checked out. There could also be a change in your pets food preference like soft or hard or the manner in which it chews. A veterinarian may want to take some radiographs or have a CT scan done to visualize a mass being present.
Abnormal discharge: If you notice blood, pus, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal distention or bloat on your pet, you may want to get your pet an appointment. Your pets’ abdomen may be distended because of a tumor in the abdomen or it may be distended indicating bleeding in the abdomen. Bleeding from the mouth or other body parts in a young dog usually indicates a bleeding disorder, but in older dogs cancer could be a distinct possibility. Radiographs or an ultrasound could aid in the detection.
Wounds not healing: If your pet has wounds that are not healing, you may want to get your pet examined. This symptom may be a sign of infection, skin disease or cancer. A lot of times, the tumors outgrow their blood supply, so they can become necrotic and have continuous drainage issues.
Weight loss: If your pet has experienced sudden weight loss it is important that this is mentioned to your veterinarian. Sudden weight loss with other clinical signs could be an indication of cancer. If your pet has cancer, proper nutrition is essential for its’ strength.
Appetite change: Pets just don’t stop eating without a cause. This may not be cancer, but it is important to mention to your veterinarian. If your pet has oral tumors, there may be difficulty or pain when chewing or swallowing. If this is occurring, by all means a visit to your veterinarian is important.
Cough and difficulty breathing: This could be a sign of heart disease or lung disease, but this is the most common sign of lung cancer. Some cancer metastasize through the lungs and lead to the symptoms of coughing which consists of a dry, nonproductive cough.
Lethargy/depression: If your pet is sleeping more, less playful, or less willing to go on walks or exercise, this may be a sign of cancer. So do your pet a favor and have him visit your veterinarian.
Changes in bathroom habits: Frequent or straining to urinate or defecate may be a sign of cancer. Also blood in the urine or stool may also be an indication. This may only be a urinary tract infection, but if straining and bleeding cannot be rapidly controlled or recurrent, it may be cancer.
Evidence of pain: Unexplained lameness or pain could possibly be an osteosarcoma, which is bone cancer. If your pet is reluctant to walk, run, or jump, this may be arthritis or joint or muscle disease. But it could also be cancer, especially if it is a large or giant breed. Radiographs can aid in the diagnosis.
Cancer is the number one disease afflicting older pets and early detection is the key to successfully treating your pet. There are several options that await us if it is diagnosed. These may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, or vaccines.
As always, we appreciate that your pet is part of your family. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact our office.