It’s a devastating diagnosis for pet parents to hear, but all too often the word cancer has to be discussed. Just because your pet has received this diagnosis doesn’t mean that it’s an automatic death sentence. Being informed about this diagnosis and the ability to make good, sound decisions regarding treatment will go a long way to alleviate some of the anxiety you may feel if confronted with such a discussion about your beloved pet.
Cancer is the number one natural cause death of older pets each year, accounting for nearly 50 percent of all deaths. It is also very treatable when caught early, and there have been many advances in treating pet cancer that could allow your pet to live out the rest of his natural lifespan with a high quality of life.
As with humans, the cause of pet cancer is largely unknown. It is known that dogs develop cancer at roughly the same rate as humans, while cats will develop more aggressive forms of cancers. Some breeds seem to be more likely to develop a certain type of cancer than others, such as large and giant breeds who are more prone to bone tumors. Environmental factors can also play into the increased risk of cancer, such as secondhand smoke (yes, it’s bad for pets, also) or prolonged exposure to the sun.
There are strong similarities between pet cancer and human cancer, such as how the cancer behaves in the body, how quickly or slowly it tends to grow and what other organs it spreads to. Molecular defects that determine if cells will become malignant or benign and the involvement of the same genes in humans and pets are also areas where similarities occur.
Some signs to look for in pets include: a rapidly enlarging stomach, lumps that enlarge or change, swollen lymph nodes, unexplained vomiting or diarrhea, chronic weight loss, bleeding that is not due to trauma, lameness that can’t be explained and a dry, non-productive cough. These are all symptoms that should be examined as soon as possible. Catching these symptoms early reinforces the importance of scheduling regular examinations, as early detection is key to effective cancer treatment and sustaining the life of your pet.
While treatments have come a long way, not all cancer is curable. If you suspect that your pet may be suffering from this horrible disease, call us immediately to schedule an exam. Quality of life is so important, and we will do all we can to help you and your pet have as many good days as possible together.