Does Your Pet Have Cancer? Consider These Treatment Options
As a fur parent, it’s normal to want to do everything you can to keep your furry friend healthy. Whether they are kitten or puppy vaccinations, routine checkups, or keeping up with tick and flea prevention, you want to ensure they have the longest, happiest life possible. But sometimes, even with the best care, our pets can still get sick.
One of the most devastating illnesses a pet can face is cancer. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), cancer is the leading cause of death in pets over the age of 10. While it’s unknown what causes cancer in animals, some risk factors have been identified, including genetics, gender, certain viruses, and exposure to certain chemicals.
Cancer in Pets
Many cancer types affect pets, with the most common being lymphoma, skin cancer, mammary cancer, and bone cancer. Cancer can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), and while both types can occur in pets, malignant cancers are more common and tend to be more aggressive.
For example, pets exposed to the sun (either natural or artificial) are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer. Short-haired dogs and cats and those with white or light-colored fur are particularly vulnerable since they have less protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.
Other cancers, such as lymphoma, can be caused by certain viruses. For example, the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is known to cause lymphoma in cats. A infected cat can spread the virus through close contact, usually through saliva or blood. You should get your pet tested for FeLV if they will be around other cats, especially if they will be boarding or going to a daycare facility.
Signs of Cancer in Pets
Cancer can affect any body part, so there are many possible signs that something may be wrong. Visit your veterinarian right away if you see these signs:
- Lumps or bumps under the skin
- Sores that don’t heal
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive drinking and urinating
- Increased lethargy
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent cough
Most Common Types of Cancer in Pets
Many different cancer types can affect pets. Here are five of the most common:
- Skin Cancer. It is one of the most common cancer types in dogs, accounting for about 20% of all cases. It can also affect cats, although it’s not as common. The most common type of skin cancer in pets is melanoma.
- Lymphoma. This is a cancer type that affects the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. It’s the most common cancer type in cats and the third most common in dogs.
- Bladder Cancer. Dogs get bladder cancer more often than cats, affecting animals over ten years old. The most common type is transitional cell carcinoma.
- Breast Cancer. Breast cancer is more common in female dogs than male dogs and usually affects animals over six years old.
Cancer Treatment Options for Pets
Treatment for cancer in pets depends on the cancer type, severity, and overall health of your pet, but here are the most commonly available:
This is often the first treatment option for cancer in pets. Vets can recommend it to remove the entire tumor or just a part of it. Your vet will recommend surgery if they believe it will be fully effective and your pet is healthy enough to undergo it.
Chemotherapy is among the most prevalent cancer treatments that use drugs to kill cancer cells and can be administered intravenously, orally, or topically. It is often combined with other treatment options such as surgery or radiation therapy.
This is a therapy type that utilizes high-energy waves to kill cancer cells. It is often combined with chemotherapy or surgery for enhanced tumor destruction. Not all vet clinics offer this type of service so you may have to travel to a specialist. Ask your current vet for recommendations or look online by searching “pet radiation therapy near me” to find one within your location.
Targeted therapy is a newer cancer treatment that uses drugs or other substances to target specific molecules responsible for the growth and spread of cancer cells. This helps to avoid damage to healthy cells.
Immunotherapy is a targeted therapy that uses your pet’s immune system to fight cancer. It is not as common as the other treatment options but is becoming more available.
Palliative care concentrates on improving the quality of life for your pet by relieving symptoms caused by cancer and treatment side effects. It can be used alongside other cancer treatments or as the primary course of treatment if your pet is not a candidate for curative options.
Cancer is a serious disease that can affect pets of all ages, breeds, and sexes. The best way to fight it is with routine checkups and early detection. If you think your pet may have cancer, make an appointment with your veterinarian right away.
Make sure to ask about all the available treatment options and which one may be best for your pet. Click this link to know more about preventive measures to avoid diseases in pets.