There’s no question that cancer has a huge effect on everyone in the world today. We either know of a family member or a friend who had cancer or is fighting cancer. Sometimes we even know of pets who had cancer. Pet cancer is something that isn’t regularly discussed but does happen more often than people think. “Almost one in four dogs will get some type of cancer in their life,” said Dr. Bradley Quest, DVM. “This does not mean that all dogs who get cancer cannot recover from it,” said Dr. Quest who also added, “An example would be a benign skin tumor that can be removed with no other treatment although some types of more serious malignant cancers can require much more aggressive treatment. Roughly 50% of dogs over ten years old will get some form of cancer in their lives.”
With such a large number, cancer amongst our four-legged family members needs to be talked about more often.
“Cancer can occur in many different forms in dogs,” said Dr. Bradley Quest, DVM. “Some of these can be skin tumors, bone cancers, blood cancers, or localized to certain internal organs or organ systems. Some such as skin tumors are more visible, but others that may affect internal organs can be harder to detect, and early diagnosis is very important.”
With November being National Pet Cancer Awareness Month, it’s important to know the facts when it comes to pet cancer. Cancer is a fight, and it’s one that you and your pet can beat and stay ahead of it.
Taking your pet to the vet for yearly checkups is the first step to staying on top of your pet’s health. Also, knowing your pet’s body and doing regular scans for any abnormal bumps or moles are good to get checked out by your vet as well. Even if your dog has a wound that looks like it isn’t healing quite right, it’s good to make sure your vet examines it in case it turns into something worse.
While you can’t prevent cancer 100% and often there are little or no signs, you can most certainly do things such as regular checkups, making sure they’re spayed or neutered to reduce the chance of them getting mammary and prostate cancers and making sure they’re maintaining a healthy weight. “Even though there is no prevention for cancer, it is a good idea to get regular physical exams at your veterinarian’s office,” said Dr. Bradley Quest, DVM. “Be cognizant of your dog’s appetite, skin/coat condition, energy level, and make a note of anything that just isn’t normal about your pet to discuss with your veterinarian.”
Will My Pet Get Cancer? Is It a Big Deal?
Just like with people, cancer is very complex. It’s hard to say whether a dog or cat may get cancer, but according to vetcares.com, around 50% of dogs and 30% of cats will be affected by a tumor, and one report details that dogs over the age of ten will pass away from cancer. Cancer is the leading natural cause of death in dogs and the second leading cause in cats.
Knowing this, it’s important enough to take pet cancer seriously and to treat it the second your vet catches it. “Annual physical exams are always a good idea to let your veterinarian check for any problems that may be undetected, said Dr. Quest who also added, “Physical exams can allow your veterinarian to check skin, lymph nodes and other organ systems for any changes. If a pet has a history of cancer then physical exams and bloodwork may be performed more frequently.”
The Most Common Pet Cancers in Dogs
It’s good to be aware of the most common pet cancers in dogs. If caught early, cancer can more likely be treated. Here are a few to keep on your radar:
- Hemangiosarcoma: Is cancer that affects the blood vessel walls and is most common in dogs, specifically German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers. It also affects the spleen and heart. Dogs rarely show signs until the tumor becomes very large and has metastasized.
- Melanoma: When people hear about melanoma, they think its human skin cancer, but that’s not true. Melanoma can also occur in dogs as well, often showing up in the mouth of a dog in the form of a tumor. Tumors are the most common forms of cancer in dogs, so if you find one on your dog, it’s best to get it checked out right away.
Lymphoma: Lymphoma is another cancer we mostly hear about with people. Lymphoma can also affect dogs as well as it’s a type of blood cell cancer that also shows up in lymphoid tissues. Lymphoid tissue is typically seen in many body places, including spleen, lymph nodes, liver, gastrointestinal tract, and bone marrow.
- Hemangiosarcoma: Is cancer that most commonly affects the spleen and heart of Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds. The signs of Hemangiosarcoma may go unnoticed, and one may think it isn’t associated with this type of cancer, such as lethargy and anorexia, which may occur if the dog has a series of small hemorrhages take place. A great practice is to commonly check your dog’s gums and lip to learn your dog’s mucous membranes and the color of their gums and lips as this can be a sign of your dog possibly getting Hemangiosarcoma.
- Mast Cell Tumors: A form of skin cancer, mast cells live in the connective tissues, vessels, and nerves that are close to the surface of your dog, such as his skin, mouth, nose, etc.
“Cancer can affect any dog breed or even mixed-breed dogs, but it can be more common in some breeds,” said Dr. Bradley Quest, DVM. “The breeds more likely to get cancer based on information collected from referral veterinary hospitals are Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Poodles, Boxers, Rottweilers, Shetland Sheepdogs, Cocker Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, Beagles, and Schnauzers. Generally speaking, cancer is more common in older dogs and is the leading cause of death in dogs older than ten years of age.”
The Most Common Pet Cancers in Cats
Cats can seem invincible, like nothing can keep them from chasing their favorite toy or running around outside, chasing birds or other critters. According to the American Cancer Foundation, one in every five cats can develop cancer in their lifetime. In other words, cancer in cats is also a big issue that we, as pet parents, need to keep an eye out.
The three most common pet cancers in cats are lymphoma, soft-tissue sarcoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.
Lymphoma: Lymphoma is considered the most common pet cancer seen in cats today. It’s a type of blood cancer that takes place when lymphocytes multiply nonstop. The lymphocytes are white blood cells that protect the kitty’s body from getting an infection. This cancer most commonly affects the intestines, nasal cavity, lymph nodes, kidneys, and liver.
Soft-Tissue Sarcoma: Is a category of tumors that include connective, muscle, or nervous tissues in cats. They result from abnormal production of these cell types uncontrollably. Unfortunately, there’s no specific reason why a cat (or dog) may develop this type of cancer.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Is an oral type of cancer that occurs in the cat’s jawbones or tongue. It’s also considered an aggressive type of cancer and, unfortunately, doesn’t get diagnosed until the tumor is in its advanced stages.
“As November is Pet Cancer Awareness month please take the time to examine your pet for anything that doesn’t seem normal for him or her, and if anything seems abnormal to you, make an appointment with your veterinarian to have your pet checked out,” said Dr. Quest “Early detection is critical in the success of treating a serious illness like cancer in our furry friends.”
Latasha Ball is the Marketing Coordinator for Pets Global, the founders of pet food brands Zignature, Essence Pet Foods, Inception Pet Foods, and Fussie Cat. She has more than ten years of experience in marketing and public relations, in which she enjoys being able to combine her professional background with her passion for animals.