Nobody wants to hear that their pet has cancer. But because cancer is so much easier to treat when caught early, it’s important to know what to look for and how to proceed should your pet develop troubling symptoms. In honor of Pet Cancer Awareness Month, here is some information for pet owners to help them look after their pet’s health and comfort as well as they can.
Signs to Look For
A cancer diagnosis can be scary, but keep in mind that it’s not a death sentence, especially if discovered early on. Symptoms of cancer in pets are not that different from symptoms in humans. In fact, dog cancers resemble human cancers so closely that researchers are hopeful that what they’re learning can benefit both species. Some early warning signs to be aware of include:
- Changes in behavior such as becoming unusually withdrawn
- Limping that doesn’t dissipate after resting
- Unexplained weight loss
- Changes in bowel or bladder habits
- Changes in eating habits
- Bad breath
- Changes in barking or purring sounds
- A new lump that grows rapidly or appears suddenly
- Any unusual swelling
- A sore that does not heal
- Difficulty breathing
Should you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. Pets over seven years of age should see their vets twice a year for checkups.
Common Cancers in Dogs
Many dogs will receive a cancer diagnosis during their lifetimes. The good news is that many cancers are treatable if caught early. Some of the most common canine cancers include:
- Lymphoma, which occurs in the lymph nodes or bone marrow
- Hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessels
- Mast cell tumors, which are found in the skin and other tissues such as the respiratory tract
- Melanoma, a skin cancer found in the footpads, nail beds, eyes, or mouth
- Osteosarcoma, a fast-growing cancer of the bone
- Mammary cancer, most common in unspayed female dogs
Common Cancers in Cats
Just like humans and dogs, cats can develop a variety of cancers. Some of the most common include:
- Mammary cancer
- Feline leukemia virus, which attacks the cat’s immune system
- Squamous cell carcinoma, a skin cancer
- Fibrosarcoma, an aggressive soft-tissue cancer
Medical technology has come a long way. Sadly, not every pet’s cancer is treatable. However, an increasing number of dogs and cats are surviving their cancer diagnoses with new, effective treatments. The ultimate goal is always to remove the cancer completely, but when that isn’t possible, there are still often ways to extend your pet’s life and make them more comfortable. Here are a few of the most
common treatments used in dogs and cats with cancer
- Surgery. When a cancer can be eradicated, surgery is typically the first line of defense.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS). SRS is an advanced form of radiation therapy that can often cure cancer – even some cancers previously considered untreatable.
- Conventional radiation therapy. When surgery cannot safely remove the tumor, radiation can be used to shrink or destroy it.
- Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs to damage or destroy cancer cells.
- Palliative care. Sometimes, a cure is not possible, and the pet’s owner elects not to put their beloved pet through uncomfortable treatments that aren’t likely to be effective. In these cases, palliative care focuses on making the pet more comfortable with procedures designed to reduce pain and increase mobility.
There are other treatments available as well. Be sure to ask your veterinarian about all the options before making a decision.
Let Your Pet Know How Much They Mean to You This Month
Pet Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect time to honor your pet and let them know how much you love them. There’s nothing quite like a comfy place to rest after a long day of playing, so be sure to check out a custom dog bed or custom cat bed such as our most popular options, the Cuddle and the Throne. Give your pet the gift of a custom pet bed today – they deserve it.