Cancer in Cats and Dogs – Pet tip 230
The word cancer scares the heck out of most people. Most of us know someone that has had cancer and many of us know of friends or family members that have died of cancer. In terms of a basic definition, cancer refers to cells that multiply abnormally. These cells can be located in one specific section of the body or the cells can spread throughout the body (metastasis). Given that there are so many different types of cells that can multiply abnormally, there are many different varieties of cancer. This article will focus on some of the most general aspects of cancer in pets. If you are concerned or think your pet may have cancer, contact your vet immediately.
Unfortunately, our pets are susceptible to getting similar types of cancers to humans, and as their caregivers we need to prepare for this possibility. Most of us know that diseases are best treated at their beginning stages so the logical next question concerns the symptoms of cancer.
In terms of the symptoms of cancer or signs that a pet may have cancer, this is a difficult one due to the range of possibilities as different cancers affect many different areas of the body. Depending on what type of cancer is present and at what stage it is at, some pets have absolutely no apparent symptoms. They look and act normally and yet they may have an aggressive form of cancer. When symptoms do present themselves, at that point there may be fewer acceptable options available to us. On the other hand, depending on the type of cancer, symptoms may indeed be present. Larger breeds like Rottweilers that have bone cancer for example, may start limping. Other forms of cancer may have more traditional symptoms like loss of appetite, weight loss and possibly even tumours that veterinarians can feel with their hands during an examination. Your vet will do some basic or advanced tests if he/she feels your pet may be at risk of getting or actually having cancer.
Although older pets may be diagnosed with cancer more frequently than younger pets, it’s important not to despair if you hear a diagnosis of cancer. Some pet owners get so worked up and upset over the diagnosis that they choose to put their pet down immediately upon hearing the diagnosis. This is a mistake in most cases as older pets typically have less aggressive cancers than young pets that present with cancer. They often have many good years left in them.
Another key point to consider is that although the types of cancers that present in pets and humans are very similar, the processing of this information psychologically is vastly different. When dogs and cats get cancer, they don’t know that they have cancer and therefore they themselves are not saddled with this depressing news; they are blissfully ignorant. Dogs are often still extremely playful, wag their tails and are still in a happy mood despite the cancer inside of them. It really is about the quality of life. If the quality of life is still good, then that is more important than how long they will ultimately live.
In terms of treating cancers chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, dietary changes and medication are often used to help treat different types of cancers. Sometimes the treatments are not as expensive as you would think, though of course financial considerations are a key factor in determining treatment. Your vet will likely want to consult with a veterinary oncologist if they are unsure about the cause and treatment. Together, you, your vet and the oncologist will come up with the best course of treatment for a given situation. Cancer is often not the immediate or short term death sentence that many people think it is.
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