NEW YORK — Cancer can strike anyone – including our pets. But as scary as a cancer diagnosis may be, it’s not a death sentence for your dog or cat.
November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month, and doctors from BluePearl Veterinary Partners are hoping to dispel some common myths and encourage pet owners to learn more about
the serious subject of companion animals and cancer.
“Many pets go on to live happy and fulfilling lives after undergoing treatment,” said Dr. Joshua Lachowicz, a board-certified veterinary oncologist with BluePearl and the founder of the Joshua Louis Animal Cancer Foundation. “That’s why it’s important to have your dog or cat regularly seen by a veterinarian and know the signs and symptoms of cancer.”
Here are seven facts that all pet owners should know about cancer, according to Lachowicz.
- Cancer accounts for nearly 50 percent of all disease-related deaths each year for older pets.
- Warning signs of cancer in pets are very similar to those in people, including persistent, abnormal swelling, sores that don’t heal, loss of weight and appetite and persistent lameness or stiffness. “It’s important to remember that some signs may be hidden, which is why routine veterinary examinations every six months are recommended for older pets,” Lachowicz said.
- There are steps you can take to prevent cancer in pets. These include spaying or neutering, proper oral care, using sunblock on light-colored pets and avoiding exposure to cigarette smoke, which can lead to both lung and intestinal cancer.
- Some cancers can be cured, and all patients can be helped to some degree with a proper treatment plan.
- The same types of cancer treatments offered in human medicine are also available for pets. “This includes surgery, radiation chemotherapy, immunotherapy or a combination thereof,” Lachowicz said.
- Pets don’t experience many of the debilitating side effects of cancer treatment that humans do. In fact, 10 percent or fewer of dogs and cats experience chemo-related side effects, such as hair loss.
- The development of new cancer treatments for animals may also benefit humans. “Comparatively, cancer in humans is very similar to cancer in both dogs and cats,” Lachowicz said.
Those who want to learn more about pets and cancer are encouraged to visit bluepearlvet.com/oncology or vetcancersociety.org/pet-owners. Anyone interested in making a donation to help owners and families of pets with cancer can visit www.joshualouis.org or frankiesfriends.org.