Recognizing Signs of Pet Cancer
With our animal friends living longer than ever historically, the incidence of pet cancer is on the rise. While this is a bit depressing, the good news is that with better pet wellness care and advancements in veterinary medicine, your team at Blue Valley Animal Hospital is more prepared than ever to do battle with pet cancer when it occurs.
Necessary Neoplasia Knowledge
Cancer is a complicated topic. This is, in part, because the term encompasses a very large range of actual conditions.
Cancer in general occurs when a population of cells within the body begin to divide without the normal controls to keep them in check. These can be virtually any type of cell—from skin cells to blood cells to bone cells to connective tissue cells, a tumor can arise from any tissue in the body.
In general, pet cancer is classified as either:
Benign—Abnormal, cancerous growths that are not aggressive. These types of tumors do not invade the local tissues or spread throughout the body. Examples include a lipoma (a benign fatty growth).
Malignant—More traditionally thought of when the term cancer is used, malignant growths are aggressive and tend to invade and destroy local tissues. They may also spread throughout the body, called metastasis.
A patient’s prognosis depends greatly on the location, origin, and nature of the cancer that has developed.
Symptoms of pet cancer can vary widely depending on what tissues are affected and where the tumor is located. A patient with a brain tumor may experience seizures while one with bone cancer may have pain and limping.
Preventing Pet Cancer When Possible
Although we cannot totally prevent cancer from occuring, we do know some key factors for prevention, which empower us to take some steps to keep our pets and ourselves healthier for longer.
Foundations of pet cancer prevention include:
- Feeding a quality, balanced diet
- Preventing pet obesity
- Limiting exposure to known carcinogens such as cigarette smoke and lawn chemicals
- Avoiding excessive sun exposure
- Encouraging an active lifestyle
Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible to totally prevent pet cancer. The next best thing is detecting it early when it does occur so that we have the best possible chance of beating it.
This can be achieved through a good pet wellness program. Routine examinations allow us to identify and discuss changes in your pet’s status including new growths or other concerning signs like weight loss or changes on routine blood tests.
Our team may also recommend screening tests based on your pet’s age, lifestyle, and breed. Different pets are at higher risk for different types of cancer, and a personalized approach is important.
It is also important to trust your instincts. If you feel that something is not right, or if your pet is having unusual symptoms such as changes in activity level, appetite, or demeanor, don’t hesitate to call us. When it comes to most problems, including cancer, early action often yields the best results.