May 27 2014

May is Pet Cancer Awareness Month

Here is a picture of our dog Annabel and myself in Cook Forest, taken the year she died of lymphoma (2006).

Hi!  I’m Dr. Kim Williams and I am a veterinarian at Clarion Animal Hospital.  I wanted to bring attention to a very real and devastating problem that many pet owners have to deal with at some point in their pet’s lifetime – cancer.  May is Pet Cancer Awareness Month, designated by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AAHA) and The American Red Cross. http://phys.org/news/2014-05-cancer-common-pets-pet-awareness.html

Cancer in pets is more common than cancer in people.   

Your dog has a one in four chance of developing cancer during its lifetime, your cat slightly less than that.  Cancer in pets is generally a disease of older pets, but there are exceptions.   You may be surprised to know how advanced treatment is nowadays for pet cancer; you may be even more surprised to know that there are simple things that you can do to help detect cancer in your pet!

Detecting cancer

You know your pet.  Just because your dog didn’t eat his meal last night or your cat missed the litter box does not automatically mean cancer.  However, in older pets it might.  Here are some screening tips for at home:

  • Check regularly for lumps and bumps – when petting your dog or cat this is the perfect time!  Know your pet’s normal anatomy.  Understand where the palpable lymph nodes are in your dog for early detection of lymphoma.  Purdue’s Veterinary School has a great article here:  http://www.vet.purdue.edu/pcop/files/docs/LymphomaFAQ.pdf
  • Understand that subtle changes in your pet’s appetite, energy level, or weight may mean something more than a “bad day”.
  • Schedule an appointment at your veterinarian’s office to have any of these symptoms checked.   Annual (or even semi – annual)  visits, especially in older pets,  can be great opportunities to have your pets weight checked and routine screening tests run, some of which may help detect cancer early.

If cancer is suspected (on the “rule out list” for your pet’s symptom) diagnostics that may be done initially include:  fine needle aspirates of any lumps, routine blood work, radiographs or even ultrasound.  These tests will detect abnormalities and help “rule in” or “rule out” cancer.  Don’t ignore those lumps and vague symptoms of your pet – have them checked!

Treating cancer

When the diagnosis of cancer is given to us as pet owners we are devastated.  Fortunately many options are available for treatment including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.  Depending on the type of cancer, the health of the pet, and the particular situation, you and your veterinarian will come up with a treatment plan.  Your regular veterinarian will be glad to explain everything he or she can about what they know about your pet’s cancer.  Sometimes, referral to a veterinary oncologist is recommended.  A search of the Veterinary Cancer Society reveals that there are 530 veterinary oncologists in the United States!  Great information for pet owners can be found at their website,   http://www.vetcancersociety.org/pet-owners/

Studies about cancer

There are many studies about cancer in pets.  Some are breed specific. A current study about Golden Retrievers is ongoing:  http://www.caninelifetimehealth.org/ and a study about cancer in Oriental and Siamese cats can be found at:  http://winnfelinehealth.blogspot.com/  and this is to just name a few!  Additionally, many pet health organizations study cancer in pets.  The Morris Animal Foundation lists funding for over  $10,000,000 (yes, that’s ten million!) for the health study program budget for 2012; a large part of this goes specifically to cancer research in pets!

You can even join or organize a dog walk for cancer.  On June 22, 2014 the Morris Animal Foundation is sponsoring a virtual walk to fundraise for pet cancer.   You can sign up at the following website “Unite to Fight Pet Cancer” at http://unitetofight.morrisanimalfoundation.org/walk.php

Resources

Thanks for reading this blog and please let me know if it is helpful!   You can find more information about pets, general health articles, and the Clarion Animal Hospital at our website https://www.clarionanimalhospital.com/

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