Pet owners understand that along with all the wonderful things that pets can add to our lives, there are certain things that we prefer not to think about or deal with, such as our pet’s potential for illness or injury. It’s not unreasonable to assume that all pet owners wish it were possible for their pets to experience only the absolute best health and happiness all the time, and they work hard to help their pets achieve and maintain this preferred condition. However, the truth is that no matter how hard we may try to prevent it, our pets sometimes suffer from poor health conditions, just as we do. And while we may feel that we are prepared to battle the occasional ear infection or digestive issue, we become very concerned when we hear our pet is suffering from a major illness like skin cancer.

Sometimes we are most afraid of the things that we don’t understand–pet skin cancer is a perfect example of this. Unfortunately, this puts us at a grave disadvantage should our pets ever encounter skin cancer, because it means that we will have to try to make the best decisions for our pet’s health and future while struggling with significant emotional distress. Pet Cancer Awareness Month is a good time to face our fears and learn more about this frightening disease so that we know exactly what to look for and exactly what can be done to help restore and protect a pet’s health when skin cancer has been detected.

Understanding Pet Skin Cancer

Adenocarcinoma is a type of skin cancer that can be found in both cats and dogs. This cancer occurs when a malignant growth occurs in sebaceous and sweat glands, creating tumors. While adenocarcinoma tumors most often occur on the animal’s face, they can appear anywhere on the body where there are sweat glands, which is why it is important to thoroughly check your pet’s entire body from time to time by running your hands over their coat from head to tail. The tumors appear as solid, firm masses or raised lesions on the skin, and can occur either in a single, localized area or in many different areas of the body. The affected area is normally easy to detect as it becomes red, swollen or bloody.

Unfortunately, the cause of adenocarcinoma is not known, and therefore there is no confirmed way to prevent it from occurring. However, it can be successfully and effectively treated if diagnosed early on. In order to determine whether the masses or lesions on a pet’s body are cancerous, a biopsy must be performed by a trained veterinarian. A tissue sample is evaluated under a microscope and further examinations or tests, including ultrasound diagnostic testing, may be used to determine whether the cancer has spread throughout the body or caused internal tumors. Once the presence and extent of the cancer have been determined, surgical tumor removal is often recommended. Where necessary, lymph nodes are drained and then treated with radiation therapy to prevent either a recurrence or metastasis of the cancer. The veterinarian may also determine that chemotherapy drugs are necessary to help thoroughly resolve the cancer, usually based on the severity of the disease.

Getting Help

We understand that it can be scary to find out that your pet has cancer, but keep in mind that animals that receive early and aggressive treatment, which includes surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, can make remarkable recoveries and go on to live long healthy lives. Animal Medical Center provides in-house ultrasound diagnostic services so that pets can be scanned for cancer where appropriate and can then receive the rapid diagnosis and treatment they need to restore their health.