This November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month. Cancer is possibly one of the most devastating diagnoses to hear when it comes to our loved ones—even our pets. The mind instantly goes to the perceived harshness of chemotherapy, surgery or radiation treatments; the likelihood of remission; and the possibility of losing the battle altogether. Many a pet owner has had to say goodbye to a beloved pet because of it, but that doesn’t mean you have to be one.
What does it mean if my pet has cancer?
Canine cancer is relatively common and it’s entirely possible that you can hear these dreaded words from your veterinarian, but there are actually many options for treatment and care. In veterinary medicine, cancer treatment is given with the goal of entering remission, not completely curing the cancer. Curative treatment will make dogs far too sick to maintain their quality of life. Veterinarians will do everything they can to ensure that your dog feels as normal as possible—because they can’t understand that they are undergoing treatment and have to suffer through medication in order to get better.
Tests for cancer can cost upwards of $200, and any other diagnostic tests that are necessary to positively confirm can be added on top of that.
Your pet’s cancer treatment will be determined by your veterinary oncologist, and will depend on the specific cancer and other diagnoses. It’s not uncommon for your pet to have to go through chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, or any combination thereof. Aside from that, nutrition for pets with cancer can become more important—the digestive system can become more sensitive to foods as a result of cancer treatments.
Signs of cancer in pets
Your pets can’t directly tell you when they’re in pain, it’s important to be aware of behavioral changes that signal their distress. The following symptoms may point toward a growing cancer, or some other health issue that needs to be addressed. Successful treatment of cancer is reliant on catching the cancer early, before it’s gone too far to be treated, so if you see any of these signs you should visit the vet as soon as possible.
- Abnormal swelling that doesn’t go down
- Sores that don’t heal
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Pale gums
- Bleeding from any orifice
- Difficulty breathing or eliminating waste
How can you prevent cancer in your pet
Spaying or neutering your pet can help immensely—some studies have shown that it reduces the chance of certain cancers. Avoiding carcinogens can also help immensely, such as secondhand tobacco smoke or asbestos. The former is responsible for mouth and nose cancers in many pets, as particles in the air land on the pet’s fur and get ingested when they clean themselves. The latter is found in some old buildings and can be more harmful to smaller animals than humans as the concentrations in the environment are relatively higher for them. Insecticides and pesticides can also be a problem for animals that are on farms or the countryside.
Limiting sun exposure is another good way of reducing cancer risk—it’s the leading cause of skin cancer in pets. Hairless areas like their paw pads and noses are especially sensitive as there’s next to no UV protection.
Aside from that, giving your pet a healthy lifestyle, one with a good diet and a lot of exercise, can go a long way towards keeping your pet cancer-free. Regular check ups will ensure that even if your pet does get cancer, it can be spotted early.
While cancer isn’t the end of the world—it’s entirely possible to treat it when it’s caught early—it’s definitely a stressful situation for both you and your pet. What’s important is that you work with your veterinarian to go through the options for treatment and provide support to your pet as best you can.
Our Pet Nannies at Pet Nanny Inc are ready and waiting to help you and your pet adjust to a cancer-prevention lifestyle. Follow us on our social media accounts or give us a call at 734-981-6108. Alternatively, you can use our on-line contact form and we’ll get in touch with you!