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Hearing your loved one has cancer can be devastating, whether it’s a family member or your furry friend. Yet in both pets and humans, cancer is a reality that cannot be ignored. In honor of Pet Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve put together a guide for understanding, detecting and treating cancer in dogs.
Types of Canine Cancer
According to WebMD, cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs over the age of 10, but experts say that half of all cancers are curable if caught early. Dogs can develop a variety of cancers including mast cell tumors, a form of skin cancer; malignant lymphoma, tumors in the lymph nodes; breast cancer, which occurs as mammary gland tumors; and soft tissue sarcomas. Other common types of cancer in dogs are Hemangiosarcoma or cancer of the blood vessels; Malignant Histiocytosis, which is cancer of the white blood cells; Melanoma; Osteosarcoma or bone cancer; and prostate cancer.
You may be relieved to know that while it may seem that cancer is an extremely common diagnosis in dogs, the main reason we are hearing about it so much these days is that dog owners are taking better care of their pooches to the point that dogs are living long enough to develop the disease. Cancer in any species is multifactorial, meaning that there is not a single cause one can pinpoint for why it develops, but the reasons are thought to be both hereditary and environmental. For the hereditary case, there are some breeds of dog more prone to cancer than others. You should be especially on the lookout for cancer if your dog is one of the following:
- Golden Retriever
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Flat Coated Retriever
- Scottish Terrier
- West Highland White Terrier
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Boston Terrier
Among the possible environmental causes of canine cancer are intact sex organs, exposure to tobacco smoke and toxic environments.
Signs and Symptoms
Just like in humans, one of the most typical signs of cancer in dogs is an abnormal lump or bump. Other classic signs are a wound that doesn’t heal, any kind of swelling, enlarged lymph nodes or abnormal bleeding. These are signs that should be addressed immediately by taking your dog to a veterinarian. Especially if your dog is over the age of 10, there are other, subtler signs that should not be ignored, which include unusual odors, unusual weight loss, loss of appetite, respiratory problems, lack of energy or bone stiffness.
Treatment and Prevention
With early detection, cancer in dogs is very preventable. You can also lower your dog’s risk of breast or prostate cancer by spaying or neutering. In addition, healthy diet and exercise are always recommended to give your dog a long, happy life. However, if the cancer spreads quickly before it is detected, there are methods of treatment which still give your dog a chance at survival. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are among the common options. However, these can be costly and may require a specialized payment plan with your vet.
If your dog develops cancer, as distressing as the news it, it shouldn’t be a cause of complete hopelessness. A dog with just a small lump that needs to be removed has a very good long-term prognosis, and even cases of malignant cancer have at least a 60 percent success range, according to WebMD. Recovery should take months rather than years. While nobody wants to imagine their dog having cancer, awareness and early intervention of the disease can ultimately give your furry friend a long, healthy and happy life.