An article by Dr. Bill Donohue, Vale Park Animal Hospital
In the United States, the pet population has grown to well over 150 million dogs and cats yearly according to recent surveys. The true number of pets with cancer is really unknown as many cats and dogs do not receive routine veterinary care. Dogs and cats are living longer and healthier lives now due to better nutrition, health care and owner awareness of medical issues potentially leading to numbers being diagnosed with cancer. A recent study found that 45% of dogs that live to 10 years of age or older will die of cancer. An estimate of 32 to 47 percent of dogs and cats will die of cancer. At the same time, less than 10% of dogs and cats will die of heart disease. As you can see, cancer is an everyday finding for veterinarians.
(Photo courtesy Vale Park Animal Hospital)
Cancer does have warning signs in pets. Early detection and treatment is key to long term survival in some cancers. However, some cancers do not have treatments or successful management. The most common early warning signs of cancer provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association are listed below.
1. Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
2. Sores that do not heal
3. Weight loss
4. Loss of appetite
5. Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
6. Offensive odor
7. Difficulty eating or swallowing
8. Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
9. Persistent lameness or stiffness
10. Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating
A few simple suggestions in addition to monitoring for the common signs listed above can help our pets. Routine petting and grooming will allow us to feel our pets frequently in hopes of feeling abnormal lumps and bumps. Routine veterinary care for every pet even if they never leave the house. Ideally, pets under the age of 7 years should have yearly exams and twice a yearly for pets over the age of 7 years. Blood work should be performed once year or more to screen for changes in the body. In addition to cancer, many other diseases such as diabetes, kidney and thyroid disease can be found with routine blood tests. Routinely exercise with your pet as a healthy lifestyle goes a long way towards longevity. Finally, please call your veterinarian and schedule an examination if any of these signs are noted in your pet.