It’s gut-wrenching to think about your cat or dog being diagnosed with cancer. How can such an adorable creature be stricken by such an awful disease? Difficult as it may be to imagine, pet cancer is also a topic that demands your attention.
What better time to discuss the risks and warning signs of cancer than during Pet Cancer Awareness Month? Broadening your knowledge of pet cancer could very well save your beloved buddy’s life down the road. The purpose of this article isn’t to raise alarm but rather awareness about the facts, symptoms, forms and treatments associated with pet cancer.
A Growing Concern
With advances in medicine, cats and dogs are living longer than ever before. An aging population of pets has also led to a sharp increase in cancer diagnoses. As a matter of fact, roughly six million cats and dogs will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Furthermore, cancer is also the leading cause of death in dogs and afflicts more than half of dogs over 10 years old.
Symptoms of Pet Cancer
- Abnormal swelling
- Wounds that won’t heal
- Unexplained weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Difficulty breathing or urinating
- Lameness, stiffness and lethargy
- Bleeding or discharge
- Persistent odor
Common Forms of Pet Cancer
Mammary Gland Tumors – The most common form of benign and malignant tumors in dogs. Not common in cats. Consult a vet to examine your pet to determine if a tumor is malignant.
Skin – Skin tumors are common in older dogs, but are often benign. Tumors tend to be malignant in cats. Let your vet examine skin tumors to determine if they’re cancerous.
Head and Neck – Neoplasia (abnormal tissue growth) of the mouth is more common in dogs. Warning signs include bleeding, difficulty eating or a tumor on the gums. Both cats and dogs are susceptible to neoplasia inside the nose. Warning signs are difficulty breathing, bleeding and facial swelling
Lymphoma – Common form of neoplasia in cats and dogs. Lymphoma is a cancer occurring in the white blood cells and it’s characterized by enlargement of the lymph nodes, lethargy, weight loss and lack of appetite.
Osteosarcoma – Better known as bone cancer, it’s much more common in large breed dogs over seven years old. Bone cancer is rare in cats. Signs include pain, lameness or swelling of the bone or joints.
Abdominal tumors – It’s a challenge to make an early diagnosis but weight loss and swelling are symptoms typically associated with abdominal tumors.
Prevention and Preparation
You might not be able to prevent cancer altogether but you can certainly do your part. We encourage all pet parents to practice good nutrition and general care to help your pet live a long, healthy and happy lifestyle.
- Spay or neuter your pet to significantly reduce the risk of testicular or mammary gland cancer.
- Feed your pet a nutritious diet. Obesity in cats and dogs is one of the major risk factors for cancer. Avoid giving your pet too many treats or table scraps to maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise. Get out there and have some fun with your pup. Go for long walks or hiking excursions to stretch your dog’s legs. Regular exercise can help reduce your pet’s risk of obesity, diabetes and cancer.
- Practice good oral hygiene. Regularly brush your pet’s teeth and practice good oral hygiene to decrease incidence of oral cancers.
Nearly half of all cancers are curable if caught in time. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), early detection is a critical part of curing cancer in pets. Fortunately, a cancer diagnosis isn’t a death sentence. The majority of cancers can be treated surgically while chemotherapy and radiation are options. Your vet will help you obtain a definitive diagnosis and develop a treatment plan to restore your pet’s health.