Your dog may think he is invincible, chasing squirrels and barking at people out of your front window, but the truth is that none of us are. Even as we learn more and more how to take better care of our pets, cancer remains a prevalent diagnosis in our four-legged friends. In fact due to the increasing lifespan of our household pets, veterinarians are diagnosing cancer in canines at a rate of 25% in our senior population.
Thankfully, your friends at Long Animal Hospital and Emergency Center are here to help you and your pet understand this disease a little more.
Understanding the Enemy
Chances are that cancer has already touched your life in one way or another. It is such a broad group of conditions, though, that it does not have the same effects on every person or pet.
Cancer refers to uncontrolled cell growth. When cells in a certain area of the body begin to divide outside of the normal restrictions, they can begin to interfere with the functions of the normal organs and tissues. Some cancers can also spread to other areas of the body, affecting them as well, in a process known as metastasis.
Just as in humans, we are still struggling to grasp exactly why cancer occurs in some individuals. There does seem to be a genetic predisposition to many types of cancer, making them more prevalent in certain breeds. The wear and tear of the normal aging process certainly plays a role, and exposure to carcinogenic substances are likely involved. Cancer in canines is a multifactorial disease that we are still working to understand.
How a diagnosis of cancer progresses depends on the type of cancer diagnosed. While any organ or body tissue can be involved, some of the more commonly found cancers in dogs include:
- Lymphoma (cancer of the lymph system)
- Leukemia (cancer of the blood)
- Osteosarcoma (cancer of the bone)
- Soft tissue sarcoma (cancer of the connective tissue)
- Hemangiosarcoma (cancer of the lining of the blood vessels)
- Mast cell tumor (cancer of a cell within the skin)
- Mammary adenocarcinoma (breast cancer)
- Melanoma (cancer of the pigment-producing cells in the skin)
Stopping Cancer in Canines
Ideally we would stop cancer in canines before it starts, but at this time we don’t have all the tools that we need to make this happen. The best that we can do it to take steps to minimize the chances that it will occur, recognize it early when it does, and treat it aggressively when diagnosed.
You can decrease your pet’s cancer risk by:
- Help your pet maintain a healthy body weight
- Avoid exposure to known carcinogens such as tobacco smoke
- Spay female dogs in order to reduce the risk of breast cancer
- Feed a healthy, balanced diet
Staying on top of early signs of trouble is essential. Call your Charlotte vet to schedule your pet’s wellness visit now. Frequent visits can help us to detect cancer earlier, making our chances of beating this formidable foe much higher.
It is also helpful to understand what cancers your dog’s breed(s) may be predisposed to developing. This can help you to keep an eye out for signs of an issue long before you might otherwise notice.
Sometimes despite every effort cancer still develops. In these situations our veterinary team is here to work with you to treat your pet through modalities such as surgery, chemotherapy, and adjunctive treatments such as acupuncture.
While cancer in canines is not the most pleasant topic, please know that we are here for you to help do everything possible to fight, detect, and treat this terrible disease. Cancer is never a diagnosis you want to hear, but together we can face it just as bravely as Fido faces the rest of the world.