Your message has been sent. We will contact you shortly if your message requires a response.
Our veterinarians are highly knowledgeable in diagnosis and offer comprehensive treatment plans to help your pet endure a long, healthy life. With extensive training and experience treating pet cancer, our veterinarians and staff can provide quality care and support throughout the diagnosis and therapy process. We know that a positive cancer diagnosis can be difficult, troubling, and confusing. Our staff is here to offer our complete support throughout your pet’s treatment, and we are here to help your family through this trying period.
While a cancer diagnosis in domestic pets was once unheard of, it is becoming increasingly common due to advances made in veterinary care. Certain cancers can be prevented by spaying/neutering your pet and providing him or her with appropriate preventative care, but many cancers are not preventable. Now that our furry friends are living longer than ever before, cancer is becoming more and more common. Cancer is actually the number one cause of death in aging canine and feline patients.
Symptoms that possibly indicate cancer in pets:
• Unexplained weight loss.
• Bleeding from body openings.
• Difficulty making bowel movements or urinating.
• Hesitation to move.
• Inclined to sleep more throughout the day.
• Sudden and unexplained collapse.
• Trouble breathing.
Diagnosing pet cancer
Currently, there are several tests that help detect cancer in pets. Depending on the location of the tumor, the oncologist will determine the method that will best help to visualize the area in question. The following are some of the methods utilized in diagnosis. Many of these procedures can be performed at our clinic, but some would require referral to a veterinary oncologist or other specialist.
• Biopsy – Remove a sample mass of the affected area and have it lab tested for cancerous cells. If those tests are positive, more samples might be necessary to see if cancer is spreading.
• Blood tests/chemistry functioning – Blood tests cannot definitively rule out cancer as a cause for your pet’s problems, but major changes in the composition of blood indicate health problems. High white blood cell count, low red blood cell count, and changes in kidney and liver functioning are all examined.
• Bone marrow aspiration – Involves removing and testing bone marrow.
• CT scan/MRI – Used to identify tumors near the bone that cannot be seen with an X-ray.
• Endoscopy – A thin tube with a camera attached is inserted into the mouth and nose to discover tumors. Similar to an ultrasound, a biopsy is then required to test the findings.
• Fine needle aspiration (FNA) and cytology – Similar to a biopsy, but does not require removal of a mass. Cells are extracted for testing from the mass with a needle. If those cells test positively, more cells might be tested to see how far cancer has spread. Sometimes this can be done in the clinic and sometimes samples may need to be sent out to a veterinary pathologist.
• Immunologic studies – Entails testing the dog’s immune system response or other chemical markers.
• Lymph node aspirate – Requires removing and testing lymph node fluid.
• Surgery – Enables veterinarian to examine all potentially cancerous areas in question.
• Ultrasound – Typically used to indicate tumors in the abdomen; a biopsy is then performed to verify the findings.
• X-ray – Allows veterinarian to detect and visualize some tumors in chest, bones, and lungs.
Treating pet cancer
In planning your pet’s cancer therapy, we utilize different approaches depending on the type of cancer and how far it has progressed. In learning about various forms of treatment, it is important for pet owners to understand cancer and how it advances.
Tumors (collections of cancer cells) come in two forms:
• Benign: Do not tend to spread to other parts of the body, but may or may not be locally invasive and cause problems at their origin. May still need to be surgically removed in order to treat or prevent problems at the site of the tumor.
• Malignant: More aggressive forms of cancer, which spread to other parts of the body.
While healthy cells within a feline age and die, they are also limited in the number of times they can replicate. Malignant cancer cells are mutated and don’t age, enabling them to reproduce an unlimited number of times. This mutation allows cancer cells to outlive healthy pet cells, slowly outnumber them, and take over. This is why cancer is more common in older pets. In treating pet cancer, we strive to kill these mutated cells and stop the cancer before it spreads.
Some common cancer treatment methods for pets include chemotherapy, cryosurgery, electrocautery, immunotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Depending on your pet’s circumstances, one or multiple treatments might be appropriate for their particular cancer—certain types of cancer are susceptible to certain treatments, and may not respond at all to other treatment options. Also, some pet cancer cases might need to be referred to an oncology specialist. If your pet requires treatment beyond what we offer in-house, we may refer you to a specialist that we are in close contact with.
The following briefly describes what each treatment method entails:
Electrocautery/Cryosurgery – Surface tumors are removed by electrically burning them off or by freezing them off.
Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy kills cancer cells along with normal, healthy cells. “Chemo”, as it is commonly referred to, tends to be more toxic to the cancer cells rather than healthy cells, but can kill both, leaving a pet fragile and potentially more susceptible to catching a viral or bacterial illness. However, please keep in mind that chemotherapy is very different in pets than it is in people. Our goal with pets is to maintain a good quality of life, and many pets do not ever feel sick from chemotherapy treatment.
Immunotherapy – The veterinarian injects the patient with antibodies that engage the patient’s immune system to help kill malignant cancer cells. This is usually done by a veterinary oncologist, and is only effective against a very small subset of cancers.
Radiation – Radiation localizes energy waves to penetrate cancer cells, killing them by damaging their DNA and stopping them from multiplying. The veterinarian focuses treatment only on the affected area. This is done only by veterinary radiation specialists.
Surgery – Completely removes certain cancers and makes others much less substantial. Surgery is typically performed before cancer cells further replicate and advance to other areas of the patient’s body.
If you have any questions about pet cancer, please contact our veterinary practice. We will try our best to answer any and all questions, or we can refer you to a pet oncologist who can further meet your needs.