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Southlake Animal Hospital
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Call us today! 219-942-0909

3570 E. Lincoln Hwy
Merrillville, IN 46410

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Cancer In Pets

May 15 2024

May is Cancer Awareness Month. Cancer is sadly quite common in our furry friends. It is the leading disease-related cause of death among American dogs and cats. Approximately one out of every four of our canine companions and one out of every five kitties are afflicted. A local Merrillville, IN veterinarian offers some basic information on this deadly disease below.

What Are the Signs of Cancer in Pets?

That will vary from pet to pet. Keep in mind that different types of cancer produce different symptoms. Having said that, here’s a list of red flags to watch for.

  • Coughing Or Trouble Breathing
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Bad Breath (Strange Odor)
  • Abdominal Swelling
  • Changes In Bathroom Habits
  • Lethargy Or Depression
  • Vaginal Discharge
  • Having Difficulty Eating
  • Lameness
  • Foul Odor
  • Appetite Changes
  • Wound
  • Weight Loss
  • Lumps Or Lesions
  • Bleeding Or Discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Exercise Intolerance
  • Vomiting
  • Urinary Difficulties
  • Cough
  • Straining To Urinate Or Defecate
  • Reduced Energy Levels
  • Drinking More or Less Water

Contact your Merrillville, IN vet right away if you notice any of these red flags.

What Causes Pets To Get Cancer?

There is no one sole cause of cancer in pets, but genetics and environment appear to be the two most important contributing factors. Increased exposure to carcinogens, including pesticides, chemicals, and secondhand smoke, are likely culprits.

How is Cancer in Pets Treated?

Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are the three primary cancer treatments for pets, just as they are for humans. However, there are now many alternative treatments as well. These include ultraviolet ozone therapy, which we are proud to offer. Other treatments, such as laser therapy, nutritional therapy, and acupuncture, may be effective. Holistic care, such as Chinese Herbal Medicine, can also help, and often works very well along with traditional treatments. Many pets will benefit the most from a customized mix of treatments. 

Then there’s palliative care, which focuses on keeping the pet comfortable rather than treating the cancer.

Of course, the treatment options are going to vary, based on the pet’s condition and diagnosis. Once your vet has diagnosed and evaluated your furry pal, he or she will talk to you about your options. 

How Common is Cancer in Dogs And Cats?

Sadly, it is far too common. Neoplasia affects approximately one out of every four of our canine companions. Almost half will develop cancer. That is comparable to the incidence of cancer in humans.

We don’t have as much clear information about our feline pals. Fluffy and Fido are both susceptible to various types of cancer, but there are differences between them. For example, cats are far more likely to develop lymphoma than dogs.

Do Some Dog Breeds Get Cancer More Often Than Others?

Any one of our canine companions can develop cancer at any time in their life. However, some breeds do seem to face a greater risk than others.

That list includes the following:

  • Boxer
  • Golden Retriever
  • Rottweiler
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • German Shepherd
  • Great Dane
  • Poodle Beagle
  • Scotch Terrier
  • Bouvier de Flandres
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Bichon Frisé
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Bulldog
  • Bullmastiff
  • Boston Terrier
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Pug

If you don’t know what breed your canine buddy is, you might want to have a dog DNA test done. Knowing whether Fido is prone to any certain ailment or disease can be incredibly beneficial, not only for this but also for other health-related reasons.

What Are the Differences Between Neoplasia, Tumors, and Cancer?

Neoplasia, tumors, and malignancies are distinct entities with significant overlap.

Neoplasia refers to abnormal cell proliferation. This could be benign or cancerous. A tumor is a growth in itself. Benign tumors can still be harmful, depending on their location, but they do not spread throughout the body. Malignant tumors can metastasis, or spread, very quickly. Cancer is essentially a malignant neoplasm.

Many individuals confuse the terms neoplasia and cancer, which is understandable. What’s the difference? Only malignant neoplasia is considered cancer.

That is of course the nutshell version: ask your vet for more information. 

What Are Some Of The Most Common Cancers In Pets?

Pets, like humans, can get several types of cancer. There are almost 30 varieties of lymphoma alone! Having said that, here are a few of the most prevalent ones:

Lymphoma: Lymphoma is one of the most prevalent tumors we see in our feline patients. Lymphoma affects a specific type of white blood cell called a lymphocyte, as well as other lymphoid tissues like the lymph nodes, bone marrow, and liver. It frequently affects the kitty’s digestive system. 

The good news is that chemotherapy can be quite effective in treating feline lymphoma. In one study, over 70% of cats went into remission following chemo.

Feline leukemia (FeLV) The feline leukemia virus affects approximately 2 to 3 percent of kitties, weakening their immune system and making them more susceptible to different diseases and disorders. Fortunately, there is a vaccine available. If Fluffy has not yet been vaccinated, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC): This is a cancer of the mouth. Early warning indications include drooling, bleeding, and difficulty eating. Surgery is frequently indicated; however, the operations might be difficult for kitties because cats’ mouths are so small. Radiation and chemotherapy are two other therapeutic options.

Fibrosarcoma: This form of cancer targets the body’s soft tissues. It is relatively frequent in cats. The good news is that it propagates slowly. The bad news? It can be rather aggressive. 

Mast Cell Tumor: This is a fairly prevalent cancer in canines. Tumors usually appear on or near the skin’s surface, although they can also form on or around the eyes, mouth, neck, and spine. Early discovery is critical in this case, as the location and size of the tumor define whether it is operable.

Mammary Tumors: Did you realize that pets can also develop breast cancer? Mammary tumors account for between 50 and 70% of neoplasias in unfixed female dogs. They are also fairly common among our feline buddies. Unfortunately, up to 90% of feline mammary tumors are malignant, meaning they can spread to other regions of the body, including the lungs and/or lymph nodes. Surgery is frequently suggested, with some pets benefiting from radiation or chemotherapy afterward.

Melanoma: Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, is among the most frequently seen. Many melanomas are benign, but malignant ones can spread rapidly. 

Osteosarcoma: Then there’s osteosarcoma, or bone cancer. As one might guess, this specific type of cancer is quite painful. Certain breeds, such as Dobermans, Boxers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Irish Wolfhounds, Rottweilers, and Weimaraners, are more likely to develop this cancer; however, it can affect any dog. 

As caregivers and guardians of our animal companions, it is our responsibility to determine the best course of action for them. There are realistic therapy choices to consider, but it is crucial to recognize that each pet is unique. The most important thing to consider is your pet’s comfort and quality of life. As your Merrillville, IN pet hospital, we realize how difficult and stressful this can be, and we are here to support you.

Book An Appointment At Our Merrillville, IN Pet Clinic

Have you seen any of the following signs in your pet? Are you concerned about your pet’s cancer risk? Contact us, your local Merrillville, IN animal clinic, today.