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Cancer and the Common Warning Signs    

Dr. Al Townshend

Cancer is one of the major concerns of all Guardians. It has been estimated that 6 million dogs and nearly 6 million cats will be diagnosed this year. The cause of death in 47% of dogs, especially dogs over ten years of age. 32% of cat deaths will be the result of cancer (Veterinary Cancer Society).

There are over 100 types of cancer seen in pets. Every area of a pet’s body is susceptible to some type of cancer. Of course, the symptoms will vary according to the type of cancer and the organs involved. There are common signs we should all be aware of that may suggest a visit to your veterinarian is warranted.

The following are some of the more serious signs:

  • Swollen Lymph nodes or other lumps
  • Abdominal Distention
  • Weight Loss, Poor Appetite and Listless
  • Chronic Vomiting or Diarrhea
  • Difficulty Urinating
  • Bad Odor from the Mouth
  • Lameness
  • Chronic Cough
  • Unexplained Bleeding

Early detection is the key to having the best outcome.

Regular, at home checkups by family members, are really important in catching symptoms early. Getting the pet to the veterinarian for an in-depth workup to determine the cause is critical to the outcome. It is important to determine the type of cancer as part of the workup. That can help with establishing a plan and prognosis (an estimate of how a situation is likely to turn out).

Knowing the type of cancer and whether it is present in more than one location, will help to establish a plan, moving forward.

What are my options?

Working closely with your veterinarian is critical to understanding the condition and the options. They can range from doing nothing but supporting the pet, because the condition has a poor outcome and enjoying the time you have, to seeking a specialist to seeking a cancer specialist and exploring multiple treatment options.

In situations where cancer has already spread to more than one location in the body, treatment options can be very limited. The best option for the pet is to make the pet as comfortable as possible and enjoy the time you have left.

When your veterinarian recommends going further by seeking advice from a veterinary cancer specialist (Oncologist) there can be several options or combinations of options.

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Immune Therapy

Keep in mind that these options can be in an effort to just slow the progression or to effect a cure so it is important to ask the right questions so you understand fully.

Surgery and chemotherapy may be the best option or other combinations of the therapies above are often the most effective options.

While cancer can attack a pet at any age, generally older pets have a higher incidence of cancer. It doesn’t take long for a bond to develop between a pet and the Guardian. That bond grows over time. Then a serious diagnosis is made, we are initially willing to do anything to extend the life of our beloved pet. That commitment doesn’t really hit home until we learn the cost necessary to meet that pledge.

The cost of cancer treatment options are not the only considerations to understand. There is also a cost and commitment by the entire human family to consider. The time commitment to take the pet to the therapy sessions. The time and commitment to support the pet through the therapy must be considered. Each family member should be committed to the direction chosen.

There are great websites that can provide additional information regarding cancer, financial and emotional support. The folks at Pet Planet have been committed to helping Guardians and their best through the battle with cancer since their doors first opened. They have established a foundation for just that purpose called Kali’s Wish. 

The staff at your Pet Planet store can also offer suggestions and provide information about preventing cancer and supporting your pet with cancer.


Additional Resources:

Canine Cancer Library

Kali’s Wish Cancer Foundation

Vet Cancer Society

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