The Ins and Outs of Cancer in Pets
Pets are living longer and better lives than ever before thanks to increased knowledge, care standards, and awareness in veterinary medicine. The longer our pets live, however, the more likely they are to be affected by cancer.
Thankfully, Veterinary Oncology Services and Research Center is here to work with you as part of a well-tuned team to help your pet should he or she ever be diagnosed with cancer. Learn what informed pet owners need to know about cancer in pets.
A Growing Problem
Almost everyone has been touched by cancer in one form or another. Rates of this disease amongst the population are on the rise, and pets are no exception. Approximately 6 million dogs and 6 million cats are diagnosed every year, and cancer accounts for almost 50% of all disease-related deaths in pets every year.
Cancer is a complicated disease that is likely caused by a few different factors including genetics and environmental causes. Because there are so many types of cancer and so many variables involved in its development and progression, there is still a lot left to be learned about this all too common problem.
The Ugly Side of Cancer
Cancer is a disease that is caused by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells. The affected cells can be part of any tissue or organ in the body including blood, bone, skin, or other organs. Unlike normal cell growth, this unchecked proliferation of cells can potentially destroy other normal tissues or interfere with normal functions.
Tumors, or abnormal cell growths, can be classified as benign or malignant. Benign tumors do not spread and are not invasive, although they can cause problems locally. Malignant tumors are what most people think about when they hear the word cancer. This type of tumor often grows rapidly and can spread to other parts of the body; this process is called metastasis. Malignant tumors can be particularly devastating.
Depending on the type and location of a pet’s cancer, symptoms can vary greatly. While cancer symptoms may mimic many other disease processes, some more common signs that a pet may have cancer include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Change in appetite
- Changes in behavior, even if subtle
- Change in urination or defecation
- Development of a swelling, lump, or bump
- Change in your pet’s odor
- Non-healing wounds
- Digestive problems
- Coughing or difficulty breathing
Pets exhibiting any of these symptoms should be examined right away.
How VOSRC is Combating Cancer in Pets
VOSRC is committed to finding newer and more effective ways of treating cancer in pets. We are always actively involved in research to help pioneer these new pathways so that we can continue to understand more about this disease process.
One thing that we do understand about cancer in pets is that a multimodality approach is essential to treatment success. Multimodality treatment means that several treatment therapies are used in conjunction to attack the cancer from multiple sides. What treatments are used for an individual patient may vary greatly depending on each animal’s unique situation, which makes an accurate diagnosis and patient assessment crucial.
Some of the more common treatment modalities used to combat cancer include:
Surgical treatment – Certain types of cancers, carcinomas and sarcomas, may be de-bulked (the main part of the tumor removed) or entirely excised with surgical techniques.
Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy involves the use of cytotoxic drugs that break the DNA via various mechanisms and directly kill dividing cells such as cancer cells. While chemotherapy does have some side effects, pets tend to tolerate it very well due to lower dosages and fewer numbers of drugs at one time. A well planned chemotherapy protocol can be paramount in treating many cancer types.
Radiation therapy – Radiotherapy uses high energy radiation to target cancer cells and prevent their continued growth. The radiation causes sublethal damage to the DNA and induces mitotic cell kill rather than a direct cytotoxic effect as with chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is often most successful when combined with other therapies.
Immunotherapy – Immunotherapy refers to treatments that stimulate the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Vaccines for cancers such as melanoma and lymphoma have been quite successful.
Cancer is unfortunately a part of our lives, both for pets and their people. Thankfully, though, with our expanding understanding and compassionate treatment, Veterinary Oncology Services and Research Center is dedicated to helping of our pet patients and those that love them. If you have questions about cancer in pets or need our help, we are here for you.