It comes as a surprise to many people that pets can get cancer, just like us. Unlike humans, where cardiovascular disease is the leading natural cause of death, cancer is the number one natural cause of death in geriatric cats and dogs, and it accounts for nearly 50 percent of pet deaths each year. However, when compared to other life-limiting diseases like congestive heart failure, kidney failure or diabetes, it is the most treatable of these diseases in pets.
Fortunately, many forms of cancer are curable. In addition, recent advancements in cancer treatment can dramatically extend the quality and length of life of many dogs and cats. Surgery is often the most common definitive treatment for cancer we use; however, some forms of cancer can only be treated with chemotherapy. For some forms of cancer, chemotherapy following the surgical removal of the tumor is indicated to prevent its recurrence. Yet in other types of cancer, radiation therapy is used as either the sole source of treatment or as an additional treatment if surgery is not sufficient. We maintain good relationships with several oncology referral centers that provide this specialized form of treatment.
Our approach to chemotherapy is to treat cancer as a chronic disease for the duration of your pet’s life, rather than an overly aggressive approach to “cure” the cancer, which can result in severe and sometimes fatal adverse side effects. Our goal is to provide the longest duration of a good quality of life for your pet with the fewest unpleasant complications as possible. Although some temporary minor discomfort can occasionally occur, we always try to anticipate this and initiate preventive treatments to minimize any discomfort as a result of the treatment. Vomiting as a result of chemotherapy is an unacceptable complication to us and fortunately is fairly rare, and we do everything we can to prevent its occurrence.
We are available to discuss the options available to you and your pet if he or she is diagnosed with cancer.
You can help prevent some forms of cancer by having your pet spayed or neutered at an early age, but unfortunately most cancers cannot be prevented. This is why early detection is one of our best weapons against this disease.
Regular veterinary visits can help us keep track of what is normal for your pet, as well as detect anything suspicious. However, because we typically only see your dog or cat once or twice a year, we also rely on your knowledge of your pet to catch any potential issues early. Contact us right away if you note any of the top ten signs of cancer in your pet:
Ten Common Signs of Cancer in Small Animals*:
- Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow.
- Sores that do not heal.
- Weight loss.
- Loss of appetite.
- 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.