It’s gut-wrenching to think about your cat or dog being diagnosed with cancer, but broadening your knowledge could very well save your furry friend’s life down the road.
A Growing Concern
Cats and dogs are living longer than ever before. But an aging population of pets has also led to a sharp increase in cancer diagnoses. Cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death for domestic dogs and cats in the U.S., with millions of cats and dogs diagnosed with cancer each year. More than half of dogs over 10 years old are affected, and dogs get cancer at roughly the same rate as humans, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The good news, though, is that there are more advances being made in healthcare when it comes to early detection and treatment.
Common Forms of Pet Cancer
There are nearly 100 types of animal cancers that your cat or dog could be at risk for, but there are some that are more prevalent in pets.
- Mammary Gland Tumors – The most common form of benign and malignant tumors in dogs. Not common in cats. Consult a vet to examine your pet to determine if a tumor is malignant.
- Skin – Skin tumors are common in older dogs, but are often benign. Tumors tend to be malignant in cats. Let your vet examine skin tumors to determine if they’re cancerous.
- Head and Neck – Neoplasia (abnormal tissue growth) of the mouth is more common in dogs. Warning signs include bleeding, difficulty eating or a tumor on the gums. Both cats and dogs are susceptible to neoplasia inside the nose. Warning signs are difficulty breathing, bleeding and facial swelling
- Lymphoma – Common form of neoplasia in cats and dogs. Lymphoma is a cancer occurring in the white blood cells and it’s characterized by enlargement of the lymph nodes, lethargy, weight loss and lack of appetite.
- Osteosarcoma – Better known as bone cancer, it’s much more common in large breed dogs over seven years old. Bone cancer is rare in cats. Signs include pain, lameness or swelling of the bone or joints.
- Abdominal tumors – It’s a challenge to make an early diagnosis but weight loss and swelling are symptoms typically associated with abdominal tumors.
If you have a cat or dog at home, consider scheduling them a medical appointment for a checkup, and keep your eyes open for some indications that your pet could have cancer. Here are some of these warning signs:
- Loss of appetite or difficulty eating
- Rapid weight loss
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting
- Loss of interest in playing or exercising
- Difficulty with stool or urination, or changes in stool frequency
- Abnormal stiffness
- Severe lethargy
- Unusually strong/foul odors
- Blood coming from mouth or rectum
- Increased thirst and urination
- Respiratory changes
- Abnormally firm swelling
- Masses along jaw or tooth line
- Wounds that won’t heal
You might not be able to prevent cancer altogether but you can certainly do your part to help your pet live a long, healthy and happy lifestyle.
- Spay or neuter your pet to significantly reduce the risk of testicular or mammary gland cancer.
- Feed your pet a nutritious diet. Obesity in cats and dogs is one of the major risk factors for cancer. Avoid giving your pet too many treats or table scraps to maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise. Get out there and have some fun with your pet. Go for long walks or hiking excursions to stretch your dog’s legs. Get your cat running around and chasing toys. Regular exercise can help reduce your pet’s risk of obesity, diabetes and cancer.
- Practice good oral hygiene. Regularly brush your pet’s teeth and practice good oral hygiene to decrease chances of oral cancers.
Nearly half of all cancers are curable if caught in time. According to the AVMA, early detection is a critical part of curing pet cancer. Fortunately, a cancer diagnosis isn’t a death sentence. The majority of cancers can be treated surgically, and chemotherapy and radiation are also options. Your vet will help you obtain a definitive diagnosis and develop a treatment plan to restore your pet’s health.
We love our pets just like we love our family, so let’s do our best to keep them healthy.
Pet Cancer infographic