We know cancer is a scary word! But you should understand that you have many options when caring for your pet–we’re here to help you!
What Is Cancer?
Cancer is a class of diseases in which cells grow uncontrollably, invade surrounding tissue, and can spread to other areas of the body. As with people, dogs can get various kinds of cancer. The disease can be localized (confined to one area, like a tumor) or generalized (spread throughout the body).
What Are the General Symptoms of Cancer?
- Lumps (which are not always malignant, but should always be examined by a vet)
- Persistent sores
- Abnormal discharge
- Bad breath
- Rapid, often unexplained weight loss
- Sudden lameness
- Black, tarry stools (a symptom of ulcers, which can be caused by mast cell tumors)
- Decreased or loss of appetite
- Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating
How Is Cancer Diagnosed?
If a lump is present, the first step is typically a needle biopsy, which removes a very small tissue sample. Alternately, surgery may be performed to remove all or part of the lump for diagnosis by a pathologist. Radiographs, ultrasound, blood evaluation and other diagnostic tests may also be helpful in determining if cancer is present or if it has spread.
How Is Cancer Treated?
Treatment options vary and depend on the type and stage of cancer. Common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy. A combination of therapies may be used. Success of treatment depends on the form and extent of the cancer and the aggressiveness of the therapy. The good news is that, unlike people who undergo chemotherapy, very few dogs will lose their hair or become ill with treatment. We have access to a network of veterinary cancer care specialists who help us plan and administer treatment for maximal benefit with the fewest possible side effects. Some cancers can be cured, and almost all patients can receive at least some benefit from treatment. Please note that if your pet’s cancer is not curable, there is still much that you can do to make your pet feel better. Don’t hesitate to talk to us about your options. And don’t forget that good nutrition and loving care from all the members of your family can greatly enhance your pet’s quality of life.