Cancer is hands-down one of the scariest diagnoses a pet parent can receive. However, one in four dogs will be diagnosed in their lifetime (and half of dogs past the age of 10). While this data is less known in cats, it is likely similar.
Advances in veterinary oncology have helped vets recognize signs of cancer. Therefore, we treat more and more canine and feline patients. Treatment in animals is much different than treatment in humans as veterinary treatment often concentrates on maintaining an excellent quality of life rather than a cure. Because our focus is on preserving a good quality of life, our patients do not often experience serious side effects during treatment.
Accordingly, early detection is paramount to treatment success. As our patients age, we recommend biannual examinations. Your vet may also suggest routine chest x-rays and/or abdominal ultrasounds (at least annually) in older or geriatric patients.
Different types of cancer commonly present in dogs and cats in certain ways. If you have a dog or cat, keep this list handy in case you notice any of these signs.
Signs of Oral Cancer
- Foul smelling breath
- Difficulty grabbing food
- Bleeding from oral cavity
- Visible mass (can be darkly pigmented or gum (pink/red) colored)
- Changes in appetite
Signs of Abdominal Cancer
- Pain when picked up
- Sensitivity to touch on the abdomen
- Swollen abdomen
- Changes in appetite (usually decreased or absent appetite)
- Vomiting or diarrhea
Signs of Lung Cancer
- Intolerance of exercise
Signs of Skin Cancer
- New mass or lump on or under the skin
What to Do
If you notice any of these signs, your beloved pet may have developed cancer. Lymphoma, mast cell disease, melanoma, hemangiosarcoma and osteosarcoma are the common cancers we see in dogs. Common cancers in cats include lymphoma, squamous cell carcinoma, mammary cancer and injection site sarcomas.
Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. He or she will thoroughly examine your pet to determine if the presented signs may indicate that your pet has cancer. During the exam, your vet may perform additional testing. This may include blood work, chest x-rays, abdominal ultrasound, advanced imaging like a CT scan and fine needle aspirates or a biopsy.
How CARE Can Help
If your pet is diagnosed with cancer, ask your family veterinarian for a referral to CARE. Our oncology specialists work tirelessly to ensure that our patients maintain a happy and healthy life, while staying up to date on the latest and greatest treatment options.