May is Pet Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know that pet cancer affects one out of every four dogs in the U.S? This accounts for nearly 50 percent of all disease-related pet deaths each year. Cancer is the number one disease-related cause of death in dogs and cats, according to the Morris Animal Foundation, a world leader in advancing veterinary research.

Because this deadly disease will affect most of us as pet parentsVIP Pets wanted to share with you some basic information to help you identify, treat and understand, pet cancer in your Texas pets.

What is pet cancer?

In laymen’s terms, cancer is an atypical growth of cells that results in the disease and death of healthy, live tissue. This aberrant cell growth spreads into vital tissue, and old or damaged cells survive when they should die. New cells form when they are not needed. These extra cells continue to divide without stopping, and many will form growths we know as tumors.

Cancerous tumors can either be malignant or benign. Malignant cancers, such as mammary gland cancer or some mast cell cancers in dogs, and lymphoma in cats, invade nearby tissues and often break away and metastasize to other areas of the body. Benign cancers (fatty lipomas and intestinal polyps in both dogs and cats) do not spread to nearby tissues. They may become quite large and uncomfortable for your pet.

What disease symptoms should I be looking for?

As responsible pet parents, you know your pup or cat very well, so any of the following changes in behavior, appearance, or temperament need to be noted and seen by your veterinarian:

  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lumps or swelling anywhere on the body
  • Changes in bladder or bowel habits
  • Offensive odor
  • Difficulty moving, lameness, stiffness, ataxia (inability to walk correctly)
  • Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  • Lethargy
  • Exercise intolerance in dogs
  • Unexplained pain when touched or, held
  • Changes in temperament – sudden aggression, withdrawal away from everyday activities, etc.

Most animals don’t show any signs or symptoms until the disease is well developed; cancer prevention for your pets may be the best way to keep them healthy.

Identify, Treat and Understand Pet Cancer

How can I help my pet ward off this deadly disease?

While you have limited control over your dog or cat’s inherited genetics, you can have a great deal of control over your pet’s diet, veterinary care, and home environment.

Veterinary studies have shown that a healthy diet consisting of foods high in protein and fats and low in carbohydrates leads to longer cancer survival rates in domestic animals. There is ample evidence showing the correlation between the consumption of complex carbs and accelerated tumor growth in human medicine because cancer feeds on the glucose supplied by the carbohydrates. Since cancer cannot grow on proteins and fats, it makes sense to feed your pet a biologically appropriate diet and starve cancerous cells.

Just as female adults should perform monthly breast exams at home to check for cancerous tumors, you can do the same for your pets. Set aside one day a month (mark it on your calendar) to provide heartworm and flea/tick medication and perform an overall body check searching for lumps, bumps, unhealed wounds, etc. The earlier you detect and address any health concern, the better.

Because we know that environmental toxins in the ground, water, and air (including cigarette smoke) cause some cancers, investigate the products you use and remove any chemical agents that may contain cancer-causing ingredients from your home. Work with your holistic vet to administer safe parasite control for your pet and determine what medications are necessary.

What are the treatments available for my pet with cancer?

Veterinary treatment options vary and depend on the type of cancer diagnosed in your pet. Common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy. Combining different treatments may be necessary for your cat or dog. The treatment success depends on the extent of cancer and the aggressiveness of the therapy.

What is the prognosis for my diagnosed pet?

Sometimes, cancer treatment can cure some cancers, and the affected animal goes on to live a long, healthy life. Other times, cancer cannot be cured. Some reasons for that are the tumors are inoperable, too widespread at diagnosis, or the treatment does not work. Unsuccessful treatment can cause cancer to either worsen or come back.  

Regardless of how you proceed after a cancer diagnosis in your Texas pet, it is imperative to consider the quality of life when making future decisions. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend palliative care to make your pet feel better.

Good nutrition, pain relief, and even hospice care are all ways you can ensure your sick pet receives the loving attention he or she deserves as a beloved member of your family.

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