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Pet Cancer Awareness

May is Pet Cancer Awareness month. Cancer is a broad term used to describe cells within the body that grow and divide in an abnormal manner or rate. These growths can either be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Just like humans, your pet can develop any type of cancer at any age. And I’m not just talking about dogs and cats. Pet rats have a high incident of developing cancer as well. Although, there are some things that can or will influence the chance of your pet developing cancer. Purebreds have a higher risk than their “mixed” counterparts. Certain breeds like Bernese Mountain Dogs, Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes and Rottweilers are just a few dog breeds prone to develop cancer. There hasn’t been much research on cat breeds to show any particular purebred breed with a higher chance of developing cancer. There is some research that shows cats with white are more prone to develop squamous cell carcinoma. (Sidenote: when I came across this information, I found it particularly interesting. I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my company with 13 cats throughout my life so far. They have varied in colors and length of hair and there has been one purebred. All have been strictly-indoor only cats. One of my first and most beloved cats, Boots, died at the age of 19 years old. He was a beautiful black and white tuxedo cat but several years before he passed away, he had developed skin cancer on the white part of his front paw.)

Because so little is known about the causes of cancers, there isn’t any foolproof way of protecting your pet against cancer. Spaying and castrating your pet can lower their risks of developing reproductive cancers. Smoking around your pet can increase the likelihood of them developing certain types of cancer from secondhand smoke. Knowing the warning signs of certain cancers and getting them checked early and regular monitoring are essential. When your pet becomes senior age, bi-yearly wellness exams and blood screenings are recommended to catch any problems before they become more serious.

Early warning signs:

  • Abnormal swelling that persist or continue to grow
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Weight loss – especially of muscle mass ( when they feel “boney”)
  • Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  • Offensive odor
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
  • Persistent lameness or stiffness
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating

If you notice any of these warning signs, call to schedule an appointment with us. We will recommend testing to rule out causes of the signs, keep in mind cancer does not always “show up” in blood work.

In many cases, there are treatments available for many different types of cancers.

I would like to share with you a personal story that I am currently living through as I researched this topic. I recently brought my 12 year old cat, Ginji, in for his bi-annual senior exam with a complete blood panel. During his check-up, I was speaking with the vet saying that he has been doing well and the only thing that was a little out of the ordinary for him is that he seemed like he might have some arthritis in his paw because I tried to trim his nails and one of his toes, he tried to bite me (which is not like him!) We started to look at his toes and noticed a little swelling in one of the digits. It was suggested we get X-rays of that paw. One of the other vets who has known Ginji for a long time thought he looked like he might have lost some weight. (He was down only 1 pound since his last visit 6 months ago). Due to how the X-ray of his paw looked, we decided to take some chest X-rays. It turns out that he has a large mass in his right lung that has spread to the toe. When we got his blood panel back, it was perfectly normal. Ginji first came into my life when he was 4 weeks old and has been kept inside his whole life. No one in my family smokes. So, his diagnosis was a complete shock.

Just like in human medicine, regular check-ups and early detection is key to help keep your pet have a decent quality of life.

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