Pets and Cancer – What you Should Know

Losing a beloved pet to cancer is an all-too-common occurrence. The disease is the leading cause of death in both cats and dogs — and therefore the leading cause of heartache for pet owners.

Cancer, which can be found in any part of the body, can be tricky to diagnose and treat in dogs and cats. Common types of cancer in pets include lymphosarcoma, mast cell tumors, neoplasia, and sarcoma.  There is hope. You can take preventative measures to protect your furry best friend. If your pet does get cancer, treatment is possible in some cases. Read on to learn more….

Can I prevent cancer in my pet?

It’s impossible to prevent all cancers, but there are steps you can take to reduce the incidence of some forms of the disease:

  •  Don’t expose your pet to cigarette smoke – they’re susceptible to the carcinogens in smoke just like humans
  •  Don’t expose your pet to recently chemically-treated lawns and yards. Some types of sprays and granules may pose an increased risk to cancer.
  •  Spay and neuter your pets early to reduce the chance of cancer in the reproductive organs
  •  Apply sunscreen to pets with fair and exposed skin to protect them from skin cancer

If your pet has a mass on her skin or is exhibiting any of the warning signs listed below, don’t wait to seek treatment, see your veterinarian right away.

What are the warning signs of cancer?

Some cancers can grow without any outward signs and others cause obvious symptoms. If your pet exhibits the following symptoms, see your veterinarian for a full exam. As with humans, early detection is key.

  •  Loss of weight
  •  Loss of appetite
  •  Persistent swelling or stiffness
  •  Difficulty with body functions: breathing, eating, urinating or defecating
  •  Wounds that won’t heal

Are there treatments for pets with cancer?

Yes! Pets benefit from the same types of cancer treatments humans do. The kind of treatment a pet needs depends on the form and stage of the cancer. The first step is to have your veterinarian evaluate your pet and develop a treatment plan and goals. Outcomes vary — some treatments can cure the disease, others just ease pain and discomfort and help prolong the life of your loved one.

The following treatments may be used alone or combined:

  •  Surgery — Removing a cancerous tumor is often the first line of defense for many cancer treatments
  •  Chemotherapy — Some cancers will respond to chemotherapy, which attacks cancer cells with powerful medicines. Pets often experience fewer side effects of chemotherapy than humans do.
  • Brand name Leukeran (chlorambucil) tablets are used to treat various types of tumors. Prednisone, a corticosteroid, is used to help reduce cancer pain and inhibit or prevent development of cancer cells.
  •  Radiation – A powerful beam of radiation can destroy cancer cells that cannot be removed by surgery.

You’ll also have to discuss your role in your pet’s treatment plan with your veterinarian. Cancer treatment requires many appointments, a lot of hands-on care, and considerable cost. You must weigh all of those factors as you decide what is best for your pet and your family.

Does your pet have cancer? What has been your experience? We value your thoughts, as do our other readers.