Blood Test Could Detect Cancer in Dogs
April 27, 2010 | By Jay Speiden

Losing a pet is like losing your best friend or a member of your family. So a simple blood test that could help detect one of the leading canine killers would seem like good news, but some veterinarians are not completely sold.

The new blood test, made by OncoPet Diagnostic Inc., is called the OncoPet RECAF test, and its makers claim that it can detect all forms of cancer in dogs by detecting certain proteins in their blood, often before the cancer is even fully formed. OncoPet Diagnostic Inc. claims this early detection will save the lives of countless pets and save the owners the pain of watching their animals suffer with cancer.

Why, then, are some veterinarians skeptical about the test?

A Diagnostic Breakthrough or Setback?

The new RECAF blood test is being touted by its makers as a breakthrough that will save the lives of millions of animals. The makers of the test claim that it is 100% effective in diagnosing all forms of canine cancer. But some veterinary oncologists remain skeptical of the tests.

Dr. Timothy Rocha, a board-certified oncologist on staff at the New York City Veterinary Specialists Clinic, explains why he isn’t thrilled about the new test. “It’s made by a company who is out to make a profit so, of course, they want as many people to use their product as possible,” Rocha explains. “The problem arises when people who love their pets feel the need to go on a ‘cancer hunt,’ subjecting their animals to a lot of unnecessary diagnostic testing that can actually stress your pet and cost owners thousands of dollars. Owners want to do what is best for their animals, but this type of testing doesn’t always amount to a positive for your dog.”

When Not To Use the RECAF Blood Test

Dr. Rocha thinks that these blood tests should never be used as a substitute for your normal routine vet visits, or for the broad spectrum of tests that are standard for your pet’s regularly scheduled vet visits.

“Dogs can suffer from a lot of ailments and while cancer is certainly one of them, you want to approach any potential illness by eliminating as many potential problems as possible. The only way to do this is through the standard battery of broad-spectrum tests that a vet will run to try to diagnose an illness. If you only test for cancer you might be missing something,” Rocha warns. “Or, if you spend all your money on this one cancer test, you might not be able to follow up if your pet has another illness.”

Basically, Dr. Rocha believes that if your animal doesn’t seem well, this narrow cancer test should never be used as a substitute for other, broader testing for a more general list of possible ailments. “The last thing you want is to get in a mode of thinking where you have your vet hunting for a specific diagnosis,” advises Rocha. “You want to always keep an open mind and make sure you are doing what is best for your dog. Sometimes that might even mean stopping the hunt for an illness altogether and just taking your dog out for a hike or a jog in the park.”

A Cancer-Fighting Tool

Dr. Rocha does think the RECAF test shows promise as a tool for monitoring how a dog is responding to cancer treatments. “If a dog is diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, this test is very useful is monitoring when the animal goes into remission or, later, to see if they are staying cancer free. This test is excellent for that purpose and really does do a fine job is determining whether the cancer is present in a certain animal.”

Dr. Rocha asserts that the best way to keep your pet healthy is to concentrate on quality of life issues by providing your pet every opportunity to lead a happy and healthy life. This behavior doesn’t usually include taking your pet into the vet at every turn to undergo blood tests.

Of course, if your pet is obviously feeling ill you should take him to see the vet and, if it makes sense, your doctor might very well want to use the RECAF blood test to test for cancer. But, this decision is probably best left to your vet. Your job should be making sure you concentrate on making the good times you have with your pet as good as they can be… for both of you.

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