SEATTLE – Cancer can strike anyone, whether they have two legs or four.
November is Pet Cancer Awareness month, and the doctors at BluePearl Veterinary Partners are hoping pet owners will use this reminder to learn more about the warning signs for this serious disease. While a cancer diagnosis is scary, it’s not a death sentence for your dog or cat, particularly if it’s caught early.
Dr. Karri Meleo, a board-certified oncologist with BluePearl, said cancer symptoms in pets are very similar to those in people. In fact, because cancers in dogs so closely resemble human cancer, there is ongoing research that might benefit both species.
“If your pet starts showing signs of cancer, don’t be afraid to look into it, even if they’re older,” said Dr. Meleo. “They can still go on to have many golden years after undergoing treatment.”
Here are a few of the most common early warning signs of cancer to look for in pets, according to Dr. Meleo:
- Any change in bladder or bowel habits; urinating or defecating more or less frequently.
- Unexplained weight loss. “That’s one of the major ones,” added Dr. Meleo.
- A change in behavior, particularly if your dog or cat becomes more withdrawn than usual.
- A lump that appears suddenly or grows rapidly. Dr. Meleo recommends taking a digital photo of your pet to map out any lumps he or she may have. The picture can help you monitor for any potential growth in the masses and provides your veterinarian with valuable information.
- Lameness or limping that doesn’t resolve with rest.
- Any changes to your pet’s eating habits. For example, if a notorious chowhound suddenly shows less interest in dinner, that’s something that should be checked out.
- Bad breath or a change in your dog’s bark or your cat’s purr could be an indication of oral masses.
If you notice any of these signs, you should make an appointment with your family veterinarian as soon as possible. Pets ages 7 or older should receive twice-yearly examinations.
Your veterinarian can refer you to a specialty hospital such as BluePearl, which has the board-certified specialists and advanced equipment to treat complex illnesses such as cancer.
“There have been many surgical advances in this field,” Dr. Meleo added. “In fact, these treatments can sometimes lead to a cure.”