Each year, veterinary oncologists at BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital consult with approximately 19,800 pets for issues related to cancer.
While there are several options for treating pets with cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation, cancer is one of the most common disease-related causes of death for dogs and cats. In fact, up to 50 percent of dogs and cats may be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
November is National Pet Cancer Awareness Month, so to help educate pet owners on the signs of cancer and ways to reduce the risk Joshua Lachowicz, DVM, DACVIM, board certified veterinary oncologist and medical director of BluePearl in Queens, NY, is offering a few expert tips.
Cancer is more common in dogs than cats. But when we see cancer in cats, it may be in a more aggressive form,” explained Dr. Lachowicz. “Because cats are inherently deceptive and experts at hiding illness, their cancer tends to be more progressed when it is diagnosed. That’s just one of the many reasons it is important to have your pet screened regularly by a veterinarian, and that you as the pet owner, are educated on the possible symptoms of cancer.”
Cancer is a disease that tends to have a better prognosis the earlier it is diagnosed, so it is important for pet owners to know the warning signs. Dr. Lachowicz says the two most common signs to look for are growing lumps or sores that fail to heal.
When normal bodily functions such as breathing, swallowing, or going to the bathroom become labored or painful, have your pet checked out. Sudden, extreme discomfort or pain are common signs of illness or injury in pets that shouldn’t be ignored,” said Dr. Lachowicz.
While it is hard to prove “cause and effect,” Dr. Lachowicz says there are some environmental influences that may contribute to the development of pet cancer. Some proactive measures that owners can take to help reduce the risk of pet cancer include: