Cancer is indisputably one of the most dreaded words and diseases in the modern world. The condition is characterized by out-of-control abnormal cell growth, and in many instances, this causes growths called tumors to develop. Unfortunately, cancerous cell growth is not always localized and left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body. When this happens, the cancer is said to have metastasized.
Unfortunately, cancer is not just an illness that affects humans. It is also the number one disease-related killer of domestic cats and dogs in the United States of America. Approximately 6 million dogs and nearly 6 million cats will be diagnosed with cancer in 2018, and this figure is predicted to get worse over the coming years.
Types of cancer affecting pets
Just like humans, there are some types of cancer that are more prevalent in pets than others. Studies show that approximately one third of cancers diagnosed in dogs are skin cancer, while lymphoma is the most common cancer affecting felines. Other commonly diagnosed pet cancers include:
- Breast cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Bone cancer
- Digestive system cancer
- Cancer of the male/female reproductive organs
Symptoms of cancer in pets
Much like human cancers, the symptoms of pet cancers can vary widely depending on the location of the primary cancer, whether it has metastasized and the severity to which the disease has progressed. However, some of the more generic symptoms of pet cancer include:
- Unusual lumps and bumps
- Abnormal/foul odors from the mouth, nose or anal region
- Unusual discharge from any orifice of your pet’s body, or sudden bloating of her abdomen which indicate the accumulation of discharge or fluid inside her body
- Wounds that refuse to heal, even after treatment
- Unexplained weight loss
- Changes in appetite
- Respiratory difficulties including persistent coughing
- Unusually lethargic or depressive behavior
- Changes in bathroom habits
- Obvious pain
In order to make a cancer diagnosis, our veterinarian will need to perform a series of tests as well as a physical examination of your animal and consider her medical history. Things that our vet will be looking for will include:
- The condition of her body
- The color of her gums
- Whether she has any unusual lumps, bumps or swellings
- Palpating her organs to ensure that of normal size
If our veterinarian suspects the presence of cancer cells at this stage, or your pet has some other worrying symptoms, he may refer her for screening blood tests.
Blood tests for diagnosing cancer in pets
Blood tests are hugely useful diagnostic tools and can tell our Avondale Animal Hospital vet a great deal about the health of your pet. Nevertheless, routine blood tests do not always show if your cat/dog is suffering from cancer. This is because different cancers present in different ways. For example, leukaemia is a cancer of the white blood cells. Therefore, while leukaemia may be detected in a complete blood test because there is a lack of white blood cells, breast cancer, which does not always affect complete blood counts, will not. Ultimately, the variety amongst cancers mean that one single blood test is usually ineffective at diagnosing this disease.
Fortunately, there is now a blood test available to veterinarians in the U.S. that looks for markers released in the bloodstream when cells multiply too quickly – as is the case with cancer. Currently, there are still some kinks to work out, such as the face that slow-growing cancers may be missed, and the response is a ‘yes or no’ rather than telling our vet in Birmingham exactly where the cancerous cells are. Nevertheless, the test may prove effective in getting a fast, accurate response as to whether rapid cell change is present in your pet, which can be followed up by more rigorous analysis by our vet to determine the location and grade of the cancerous cells.
If you are concerned that your pet may have cancer, don’t delay to contact us at Avondale Animal Hospital to seek advice from our veterinarians in Birmingham, AL. Prompt diagnosis and action could make all the difference between successful treatment or having to say a premature farewell to your beloved furbaby. Schedule an appointment for Early Detection Testing today!