We often think of cancer as a human disease, but did you know that our furry friends can get it, too? In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association says that cancer is the leading cause of 47% of deaths in dogs and 32% of deaths in cats over the age of ten.
Read on for a quick overview of pet cancer, including how to spot the signs, what you can do to help your pets, and a few tips on cancer prevention.
What Is Cancer?
Cancer is the unregulated growth of cells in the body. This can happen in any organ or tissue, and many different types of cancer can affect pets. The cause of cancer in pets is unknown, but there are some risk factors that have been identified. These include exposure to certain chemicals, viruses, and radiation; lifestyle factors such as obesity; and genetics.
There are stages of cancer in pets, just as there are in humans. These stages indicate how far the cancer has progressed and spread through the body. In the early stages, cancer is often more easily treated with a better prognosis.
- Tumor. A mass or lump that is an abnormal growth of cells.
- Node. A small, bean-shaped lymph node.
- Metastasis. This is when the cancerous cells break away from the original tumor and spread to other body parts through the bloodstream or lymph system.
How to Spot Cancer in Pets
The signs of cancer in pets can vary depending on the type and stage of cancer. However, there are some general warning signs and symptoms to be aware of. These include:
- A change in appetite
- Weight loss
- Difficulty urinating or defecating
- Abnormal bleeding or discharge
- Lumps or masses under the skin
- Sores that don’t heal
If you see any of these signs in your pet, it’s essential to make an appointment with an experienced veterinarian right away, such as this veterinarian Oceanside Ca. They will perform a physical examination and may order tests such as x-rays, ultrasounds, or biopsies to help diagnose cancer.
Treatment for Pet Cancer
Treatment for pet cancer will vary depending on the type and stage of cancer and your pet’s overall health. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy. Your veterinarian will work with you to create the best treatment plan for your pet.
Surgery is generally the first course of treatment for pet cancer. The goal of surgery is to remove the cancerous cells and tumor, which may be combined with other treatments (radiation therapy or chemotherapy).
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It is typically given intravenously, but some oral chemotherapy drugs are available for pets. Chemotherapy can have side effects, including vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and fatigue.
Radiation therapy utilizes high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. It is typically given with other treatments such as surgery or chemotherapy. Side effects of radiation therapy can include skin irritation, hair loss, and fatigue.
Immunotherapy uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer. It is still considered to be experimental for pets, but there are some promising results.
What You Can Do to Help Your Pet
Below are a few tips to help your pet through treatment after they are diagnosed with cancer:
- Follow your veterinarian’s instructions and give your pet their medications as prescribed.
- Watch for side effects and report any changes to your veterinarian right away.
- Keep your pet comfortable and make sure they get plenty of rest. This may mean making some changes to their diet and exercise routine.
- Spend lots of quality time with your pet (they will appreciate it).
How to Prevent Cancer in Pets
Unfortunately, there are no sure ways to prevent cancer in pets. However, there are some things you can do to reduce your pet’s risk. Consider the following steps:
- Ensure they are up to date on their vaccinations. Certain viruses have been linked to cancer in pets.
- Try to avoid exposing them to chemicals and toxins. This includes things like cigarette smoke, pesticides, and household cleaners.
- Feed them a nutritious diet and keep them at a healthy weight. Obesity has been linked to cancer in pets.
- Have them checked regularly by specialists, such as an animal dentist, internist, etc. This will help catch any potential problems early.
The Bottom Line
Cancer is a serious disease that can affect both humans and animals. However, treatments can help your pet fight cancer and live a long, happy life. If you believe your pet has cancer, be sure to make an appointment with an animal internal medicine expert.