Many people are unaware that cancer isn’t just a human condition; it affects cats and dogs as well. In fact, statistics show that one in six cats and nearly half of dogs over the age of 10 will develop cancer in their lifetime. Neoplasia, or the abnormal growth of tissues or cells in the body, is also common with statistics showing that 1 in 4 dogs will develop neoplasia in their lifetime.
Surprisingly, pet cancer is one of the leading causes of disease-related deaths in pets, and we see many cases at the Animal Medical Center. According to NCI’S Center for Cancer Research, out of the 65 million dogs in the United States, approximately 6 million new cancer diagnoses were made. Some of the most common cancers include osteosarcoma, soft tissue sarcoma, melanoma, mammary carcinoma, head and neck carcinoma, prostate carcinoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Factors to Consider
Most of the above cancers are not caused by a single source. Here are some of the possible causes:
- Genetics – Cancers result from mutations that occur in genes during a cat’s or dog’s lifetime that were not present at birth. Too often, these mutations are brought about by hormonal changes. The genetic predisposition makes some breeds more prone to cancers than others. For example, the Scottish terrier breed is up to 20 times more susceptible to bladder cancer than other breeds.
- Environmental Pollutants – External factors like exposure to chemicals or even sunlight also play a role in causing cancers. Second-hand smoke, for instance, is a common culprit of lung carcinoma in pets.
- Viruses – viruses, such as papillomavirus, have also been linked to the creation of cancer in both cats and dogs. It is more likely to develop contagious skin tumors known as Papillomas. Fortunately, this often resolves without treatment.
Much like cancer in humans, early detection and prompt treatment increase the chances of survival. Here are common signs of cancer in pets:
- Difficulty eating, swallowing or breathing
- Persistent stiffness and lameness
- Subtle changes like increased sleep, loss of stamina or hesitation to exercise
- Difficulty urinating or defecating
- Offensive odor
- Bleeding or discharge from body openings
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss and or change in the shape of head muscles
- Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
- Increased water consumption
- Lumps or abnormal skin growths
If you notice any of the above symptoms in your pet, it is important to immediately seek veterinary attention. The veterinarian will be able to examine your pet and run diagnostic tests such as blood tests, biopsies, fluoroscopies, urinalysis, radiographs (X-rays) and ultrasounds, amongst other tests. Most importantly, taking your pet in to the veterinarian for scheduled routine wellness exams is one way to increase the chances of early detection and survival.
Although cancer in cats and dogs is still a growing epidemic, pets today have a better chance of being successfully treated. In most cases, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are being used to treat cancer, either alone or in combination. Among the three, surgery is often the first line of pet cancer treatment when localized cancer can be removed permanently. Other treatment options recommended by veterinary cancer specialists include cell killing (cytotoxic) drugs and radiation.
Contact Animal Medical Center Today
If you suspect that your pet has cancer, contact Animal Medical Center immediately. We will run the appropriate diagnostic tests and, if needed, walk you and your pet through the treatment process. Our greatest concern in always the happiness and health of your pet.