Cancer in Pets: The Importance of Early Detection

dog under blanket

Cancer is an unfortunate part of life for many people, and the same is true for our pets. Cancer is the main cause of death in close to 50% of all dogs and more than 30% of cats, according to the Veterinary Cancer Society. Dogs experience cancer at the same rate as humans, in fact, and can be difficult to detect until the cancer has progressed.

While cancer is a scary topic for most of us who love our pets, it is important to know the signs and ways you can catch the disease early. The good news is that we have come a long way in diagnosing and treating cancer in pets and can give hope to those pet parents affected.

Pet Cancer

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells of the body. It is a complex disease that actually presents differently, depending on the type and location of the cancer. In a way, cancer is an umbrella for many diseases, from melanoma to leukemia. Some of the more common forms of cancer include:

  • Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes
  • Mast cell tumor
  • Osteosarcoma, or bone cancer
  • Hemangiosarcoma, cancer of the blood vessels
  • Melanoma, an aggressive skin cancer
  • Mammary gland carcinoma, typically affecting unspayed females
  • Leukemia (cats)

Cancer is caused by several factors which include genetics, hormones, diet, exposure to carcinogens, among other factors. Knowing how your pet’s breed and lifestyle contributes to cancer risk can help you be aware of the signs and make good changes to reduce the risk. 

Even when the cause is genetics, having an understanding of your pet’s propensity to develop cancer can give you better insight into what to watch for. This will also allow you to keep your pet as healthy as possible, reducing other factors that can contribute to cancer.

Symptoms of Cancer in Pets

Knowing what to look for can help in a better outlook for treatment. Here are some warning signs that are commonly seen in pet companions.

  • Abnormal swelling that persists
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Offensive odor
  • Fatigue
  • Lameness
  • Difficulty urinating, defecating, and/or breathing
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Unexplained bleeding

Please follow up with your veterinarian if your pet displays any of these symptoms.

Early Detection for a Better Outcome

Early detection is one of the best indicators of a better prognosis when a pet is diagnosed with cancer. A big part of this is being proactive when you notice any changes in your pet’s health. At Berks, we rely on advanced diagnostics to determine whether cancer is present. Some of the tools we use at our hospital include ultrasound, X-rays, genetic testing, and lab work. 

Our hope is that, through the use of diagnostic testing and new treatments for cancer, we can overcome this terrible disease that affects so many of our furry loved ones. If you would like more information on cancer in pets and our oncological capabilities, please call Berks Animal Emergency and Referral Center team

For a personal personal account of one pet’s journey with cancer, we shared the story of Parker and his family.