Much like cancer being one of the leading causes of death in humans, it also accounts for nearly half of disease-related deaths of dogs and cats. According to the Animal Cancer Foundation, it is estimated that about 6 million dogs and approximately 6 million cats will be diagnosed with cancer this year.
In order to make pet owners aware of the gravity of this disease, the Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. designated November as “National Pet Cancer Awareness Month.” Their objective is to dedicate this month to educating the public and pet owners about the prevalence, detection and treatment of cancer in animals.
Don’t let cancer go undetected. If you fear that your pet may be ill, contact our pet hospital in McAllen to schedule a checkup appointment.
Cancer forms when a human or animal’s immune system fails to fight cells that are replicating at an abnormally fast pace, resulting in benign or malignant tumors forming on the skin or organs. The factors that attribute to the formation of cancer in the body can be genetics, environmental factors, toxins, radiation, tumor viruses and hormones. Having a poor immune system can also increase the risk of cancer.
Common cancers in pets are found on the skin, mammary glands (breasts), head and neck, lymph nodes, testicles, abdomen and bones. In dogs, the most common types of cancer occur in the lymph nodes and in the breast. Lymphoma is when one or multiple lymph nodes in the body become enlarged. More than 50% of breast tumors in dogs are malignant. In cats, the most common type of cancer is leukemia, which affects the blood cells.
Signs and Symptoms
Detecting cancer in your pet isn’t always easy, and sometimes certain observable signs and symptoms can be indications of other health complications. However, it is still important to be vigilant of any signs showing that your pet may have cancer. Here is a list of a few:
- Pain – Limping or struggling to walk, run or jump can be caused by arthritic, joint or muscle issues but can also indicate the presence of cancer.
- Changes in bathroom habits – Having a hard time going to the bathroom, going too frequently or blood being present in urine or stool is a sure sign that something is wrong.
- Coughing, trouble breathing – This could be a sign of heart disease, lung disease or cancer.
- Lethargy/depression – Cancer can cause a pet to suddenly be less active or sleep more.
- Weight loss – Any sudden weight loss that was not a result of a change in diet.
- Change in appetite – An oral tumor can cause a pet pain and discomfort when eating.
- Non-healing wounds – These could be a sign of infection, skin disease or cancer.
- Abnormal discharges – Blood, pus, diarrhea or any other abnormal discharge from the body.
- Abnormal odors – Strong odors in the mouth, ears or other parts of the body.
- Lumps/bumps – Lumps on your pet that are growing at a really fast rate or are changing in shape or texture.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you notice that your pet is showing some or many of the signs or symptoms listed above, you shouldn’t immediately conclude that your pet has cancer. It takes veterinary professionals and diagnostic medical equipment to establish an accurate diagnosis of a pet’s type and stage of cancer, if any. If detected early enough, your pet may still be able to live a long and satisfying life.
Veterinarians may use tests involving needle aspiration, biopsies, blood work or diagnostic imaging to produce a diagnosis. Treatments that may be offered to treat certain cancers include chemotherapy, electrochemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery and surgery. Although these treatments may sound scary and painful, veterinarians actually use milder doses of medications and less extreme procedures to treat pets, so as a pet owner, you don’t have to be afraid that your pet will suffer while undergoing cancer treatment.
In order to help prevent cancer in your pet, you should make sure that they get routine medical care, exercise regularly and consume healthy foods and treats.
Routine Care for a Healthier Pet
To rule out cancer or other health complications and formulate an accurate diagnosis, it would be in your pet’s best interest to bring them into our pet hospital in McAllen so that our pet doctors can examine and assess their health. Call 956.787.2709 to schedule an appointment today.