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Cancer and Pets

May 1, 2024

May is Cancer Awareness Month. This is a very significant, if sad, topic for our furry friends. Cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death for dogs and cats in the United States. Approximately 25% of dogs and 20% of cats are eventually diagnosed with it. Read on for some key information from a De Pere,  WI vet about pet cancer.

What Kinds Of Cancer Do Pets Most Often Get?

Many different types of cancer can impact pets. In fact, there are actually over 30 distinct types of lymphoma alone! While we can’t go in depth about all of them here, we can touch on a few of the most frequently encountered ones:  

  • Lymphoma Lymphoma impacts a particular kind of white blood cell called a lymphocyte, along with other lymphoid tissues like the lymph nodes, bone marrow, and liver. It’s quite common in kitties. Other illnesses, such as feline immunodeficiency and feline leukemia, can contribute to its development. Fortunately, chemotherapy has proven to be highly effective in treating feline lymphoma. The results of a recent study showed that about 70% of cats who had chemotherapy went into recovery.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SSC) This is an oral cancer. Be vigilant for certain warning signs, like excessive drooling, unexplained bleeding, and difficulty with eating. Additional treatment options may include radiation and chemotherapy.
  • Fibrosarcoma is a specific form of cancer that affects the body’s soft tissues. Its spread is relatively slow, but it can be very aggressive.  
  • Mast Cell Tumors frequently develop on or in close proximity to the skin’s surface in instances of this particular form of cancer. They can also appear in other parts of the body, such as the eyes, mouth, throat, and spine.
  • Mammary Tumors  Just like humans, pets can also develop breast cancer. It’s not uncommon for female dogs to experience this. Mammary tumors constitute a significant proportion of neoplasias.  Regrettably, many mammary tumors are malignant, which means that they have the potential to metastasize to other areas of the body, including the lungs and lymph nodes.
  • Feline Leukemia (FeLV) Approximately 2 to 3 percent of cats get the feline leukemia virus, which affects the kitty’s immune system, leaving them susceptible to many other viruses and conditions. Fortunately, there is a vaccine. If your cat hasn’t been vaccinated yet, talk to your vet about scheduling it ASAP.  
  • Osteosarcoma Osteosarcoma mainly affects the skeletal system and can cause significant pain. Some dog breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Boxers, Irish Wolfhounds, Rottweilers, and Weimaraners, are more likely to develop this form of cancer.

What Are The Signs That Your Pet Might Have Cancer?

Cancer can cause many different symptoms. Being mindful of warning signs is crucial. Some of the main ones to watch for include loss of appetite, wounds, weight loss, respiratory issues, inflammation, discomfort, unusual breath odor, enlargement of the abdomen, changes in bathroom routine, decreased energy, mood changes, difficulties with eating, limping, unpleasant odor, bleeding or discharge, fatigue, decreased tolerance for physical activity, vomiting, urinary difficulties, coughing, straining during elimination, decreased stamina, and changes in water intake.

It is also important to be mindful of any overall shifts in behavior. When Fluffy and Fido aren’t feeling well, their behavior may change from how they usually act. An affectionate pet may become antisocial, while an aloof one may start demanding cuddles. You may also notice changes in your pet’s vocalizations.

If you encounter any of these signs, it is important to quickly contact your veterinary clinic. The earlier an issue is diagnosed, the earlier it can be treated, which can make a huge difference.

What’s The Difference Between Dysplasia, Tumors, And Cancer?

Neoplasia, tumors, and cancers are distinct entities, although there is a lot of overlap between them.

Neoplasia refers to the unhealthy growth of cells, which could be either benign or cancerous. A tumor is the result of cells growing abnormally. Although benign tumors can still be a cause for concern, their ability to spread throughout the body is typically limited. Cancerous tumors, however, can rapidly spread and migrate to various parts of the body. To put it very, very simply, cancer is a dangerous type of abnormal tissue growth.

What Kinds Of Treatments Are There For Pets That Have Cancer?

Like people, pets have three primary options for cancer treatment: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. At least, those are the big ones. These days, a wide array of alternative and/or supplemental options are available, such as immunotherapy, cryotherapy, hyperthermia, and radioactive Iodine I-131. Another option is palliative care, which prioritizes the pet’s comfort instead of aggressively battling the cancer. Other treatments that may help include laser therapy, nutritional therapy, and acupuncture. Many pets can greatly benefit from a wide range of therapies.

Of course, these are not universal. What is best for your pet will depend on their diagnosis. Once your pet has been diagnosed and evaluated, your veterinarian will provide more specific information on the available options.

Several factors should be taken into account in this situation, such as the stage and type of cancer, the cost and duration of treatment, and the quality of life of your pet. A dog with a tumor in its leg at an early stage may have a more favorable outlook than a cat with advanced lung cancer.  Once your vet has finished a detailed evaluation of your pet and received all the required test results or screenings, they will provide you with comprehensive information.

Remember that a diagnosis doesn’t have to be the end for our beloved furry friends. While the prognosis for every pet is different, many of our animal friends can live for years after proper treatment.

What Are Some Things That Can Cause Cancer In Pets?

Just like humans, the incidence of cancer in pets is increasing. This is probably the result of heightened exposure to cancer-causing substances like pesticides, chemicals, secondhand tobacco, and similar agents. And while there isn’t a definitive cause for pet cancer, it appears that environmental and genetic factors both play significant roles.

Are Some Breeds More Likely To Get Cancer Than Others?

Cancer can affect dogs of all breeds and ages. Nevertheless, certain puppies may be more susceptible to potential dangers than their counterparts. Certain dog breeds are more susceptible. These include the Bernese Mountain Dog, German Shepherd, Great Dane, Poodle, Beagle, Scottish Terrier, Bulldog, Bull Mastiff, Bouvier des Flandres, Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, Cocker Spaniel, Bichon Frisé, Doberman Pinscher, Boston Terrier, Miniature Schnauzer, and Pug.

What about mutts? If you’re not sure what breed of pet you have, it might be worth considering a doggy DNA test. This information can be extremely helpful in identifying any particular illnesses or diseases that Fido might be susceptible to. 

As far as cats, kitties don’t have as much breed-related variation in their physiology as dogs do, so it isn’t as much of a factor. There is also much more research needed on kitty cancers. That said, Siamese cats do seem to be particularly susceptible.

Schedule An Appointment At De Pere, WI Veterinary Hospital

Have you noticed any of these symptoms in your cherished companion? Do you worry about the possibility of your beloved pet developing cancer? Contact us now at our De Pere, WI animal clinic!

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