The Dreaded Diagnosis: Cancer in Pets
Cancer is a word that no pet owner wants to hear. Still, with veterinary medicine advancing exponentially and pets living longer than ever, cancer has become a more frequent diagnosis.
It is important that today’s pet owner understands cancer in pets so that they can know their enemy. We hope that it never happens, but if you ever have a pet who is diagnosed with cancer we want you to know that we are here to help.
The Basics of Cancer in Pets
In actuality, “cancer” is a vague term. In layman’s terms, cancer means that certain cells in the body are dividing without any control. Cancer comes in many different forms and can affect nearly any part of the body.
Cancers can either be “malignant” (invasive or aggressive) or “benign” (not harmful or nonmalignant). Certain types of cancer may even spread throughout the body, through a process called metastasis, and cancerous cells can affect or otherwise destroy surrounding tissues.
If cancer is suspected, accurately diagnosing and staging cancer will give us the necessary information to develop a treatment plan for you pet. As all cancers behave differently, a customized treatment plan will your pet’s best defense against this illness.
Cancer in Pets
When a pet has cancer, they may experience or show a variety of symptoms. Because there are so many variables in this disease, such as the location, type, and nature of the cancer, the symptoms may present themselves differently in each case.
Most diseases are best treated when caught early in their course, and cancer is no exception. We should examine your pet immediately if you notice:
- A lump or bump that is new or changing
- Loss of energy
- Decrease appetite
- A strange, inexplicable odor
- Unexplained weight loss
- A sore that is not healing
- Sudden limping
- Heavy breathing or difficulty breathing
Caring for Pets with Cancer
When it comes to treating pets with cancer, we know more now than we’ve ever known. Cancer may be treated using one or more techniques; we often have the most success when we attack the illness with a multimodal approach. Cancer treatments may include:
Surgery – If we can remove the cancer, we are going to. In some pets, surgery may be completely curative or play an important role in removing the bulk of the disease.
Chemotherapy – Using injectable agents to attack cancer cells can be quite effective. Oftentimes, our pets tolerate chemotherapy better than people because of the different protocols and drugs used.
Radiation therapy – Some types of cancer respond well to the use of high-energy particles to kill cancer cells.
Alternative therapies – Depending on the type of cancer, immunotherapy, acupuncture, nutritional therapy, or supplements can be helpful.
During treatment, or if treatment is not elected, it is also very important that we maintain our patient’s quality of life. This may mean things like stimulating his or her appetite, easing pain, or suppressing nausea.
While cancer is never a diagnosis anyone wants for their pets, it is important to understand the diagnosis and your options. Should you ever need us, we are here to help.