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Pets and Cancer: What You Need To Know

May 1, 2024

May is Cancer Awareness Month, when numerous organizations come together to raise awareness for cancer. Unfortunately, cancer is a common occurrence in our beloved furry companions. It remains the top cause of disease-related death for dogs and cats in the United States. Around a quarter of dogs and one-fifth of cats receive a diagnosis. Continue reading to learn important information about this dangerous illness from a Coral Springs, FL veterinarian.

What Cancers Are Most Common In Pets?

Pets can be affected by many different kinds of cancer. It’s worth noting that there are more than 30 different types of lymphoma.

That said, here are a few of the commonly encountered ones:  

  • Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV): As many as 3 percent of American kitties are afflicted with FeLV. This is the most common cancer in kitties. It’s worth noting that cats with compromised immunity are at highest risk. 
  • Fibrosarcoma This particular type of cancer impacts the soft tissues of the body. It spreads slowly but can be aggressive. This is not uncommon with cats. Luckily, a diagnosis doesn’t have to be the end for our beloved feline friends. Kitties can live for some time with proper care, although the lifespan will vary for each individual cat.
  • Mast Cell Tumor These types of tumors often form on or near the skin’s surface, but they may also form in other areas of the body, including the eyes, mouth, throat, and spine. 
  • Lymphoma Lymphoma affects a specific type of white blood cell, known as a lymphocyte, as well as other lymphoid tissues such as the lymph nodes, bone marrow, and liver. There is good news for kitties here: luckily, chemotherapy has shown great success in treating feline lymphoma. A recent study revealed that a significant majority of cats achieved remission after undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SSC) This condition impacts the oral cavity. Signs to watch out for include an increase in saliva, unexpected bleeding, and challenges with eating. 
  • Mammary Tumors Pets, like humans, can also be affected by breast cancer. In fact, mammary tumors make up a significant portion of neoplasias. Many times, veterinarians recommend surgery as a viable treatment option. There are situations where pets may benefit from additional chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
  • Osteosarcoma Osteosarcoma primarily impacts the skeletal system and can cause considerable discomfort. Certain dog breeds, such as Dobermans, Boxers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Irish Wolfhounds, Rottweilers, and Weimaraners, have a higher risk of developing this type of cancer.

What Are The Key Warning Signs Of Cancer In Pets?

Cancer can cause a variety of symptoms. Different types of cancer can also cause different symptoms. Some of the things to watch for include bloating, changes in defecation and urination, decreased energy, mood changes, difficulties with eating, limping, unpleasant/strange breath odor, bleeding, discharge, fatigue, reduced tolerance for physical activity, vomiting, lack of appetite, wounds, weight loss, respiratory issues, inflammation, discomfort, coughing, straining during elimination, and changes in water intake. Visible lumps or bumps are also a red flag.

Pay close attention to any changes in Fido and Fluffy’s behavior as well. When pets are unwell, their behavior often tends to change. A cuddly kitty may become aggressive, while a less sociable cat may unexpectedly seek out affection.

If you observe any of these signs or notice any other unusual behavior in your furry best friend, contact your Coral Springs, FL veterinary clinic immediately. Keep in mind that the earlier a problem is identified and addressed, the better!

Here at Heron Lakes, we are equipped with high-tech tools, including a mobile imaging center. We offer the following:

  • In House Laboratory
  • Off-Site Reference Laboratory
  • Bloodwork
  • Cancer Detection  
  • Tissue Biopsy
  • Bone Biopsy
  • Digital X-ray
  • Digital Dental X-Ray
  • Abdominal Ultrasounds

Ask your vet for more information. 

Cancer, Neoplasia, and Tumors: How Are They Different?

There are distinctions between neoplasia, tumors, and cancers, although they can sometimes share similarities.

Neoplasia is the result of cells growing in an abnormal manner. This could be either benign or malignant. A tumor is the result of that abnormal growth. 

While benign tumors can still pose a risk, their likelihood of spreading throughout the body is generally low. Tumors that are cancerous have the ability to quickly spread and move to different areas of the body. In the most straightforward terms, cancer is a dangerous form of irregular cell proliferation.

That is of course the nutshell version. Feel free to reach out to your vet for further details.

What Treatment Options Are Available For Pets With Cancer?

Similar to humans, pets have three main options for cancer treatment: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Those are the traditional ones. However, there are other treatment options to consider, including immunotherapy, cryotherapy, hyperthermia, and radioactive Iodine I-131. Another option is palliative care, which focuses on ensuring the pet’s comfort rather than aggressively fighting the cancer. There are additional treatment options available for pets, including laser therapy, nutritional therapy, and acupuncture. 

However, these certainly aren’t universally applicable.Every pet is unique, so the most suitable treatment will depend on the diagnosis.

There are several factors to consider in this case, including not just quality of life, but the stage and type of cancer, as well as your pet’s overall health. A dog with a tumor in the early stages on its leg may have a more positive prognosis than a cat with advanced lung cancer.  

After your vet completes a thorough assessment of your pet and receives all the results of any necessary tests or screenings, they will discuss the possibilities with you.

What Causes Cancer In Pets?

There is no one clear cause for pet cancer, but it seems that both environmental and genetic factors have a significant impact.

The prevalence of cancer in pets is on the rise, just as human cancers are. It is likely that this is due to increased exposure to substances that can cause cancer, such as pesticides, chemicals, secondhand tobacco, and other factors.

Are Specific Breeds At Higher Risk?

Dogs of all breeds and ages can be impacted by cancer. However, some pups may be more prone to it than others. Some of the dogs that are highly susceptible include the German Shepherd, Great Dane, Poodle, Beagle, Scottish Terrier, Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, Bernese Mountain Dog, Bouvier des Flandres, Cocker Spaniel, Bichon Frisé, Doberman Pinscher, Bulldog, Bullmastiff, Boston Terrier, Miniature Schnauzer, and Pug.

As far as cats go, Siamese kitties are prone to several health issues. However, any cat can develop cancer, and at any point of life. 

If you’re unsure about Fido’s breed, it might be worth considering a doggy DNA test. This can help identify any specific illnesses or diseases that your furry friend may be prone to. This information can be very useful in helping know what issues you’ll need to watch for. Ask your vet for more information.

Book An Appointment At Our Coral Springs, Fl Pet Clinic

Have you noticed any of these signs in your beloved pet? Are you concerned about the potential for your pet to develop cancer? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at our animal clinic in Coral Springs, FL! Our commitment is to deliver exceptional care and outstanding customer service.

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