Cat and Dog Cancer: Signs, Symptoms and How to Tell if Your Pet's Got it
October marks National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an initiative aimed towards educating people about the dangers of breast cancer and proliferating knowledge and access to services regarding the disease. While the initiative is human oriented, it's important to realize that cancer, as dangerous as it is for us, is just as grave a danger to our furry friends.
With this in mind, Petside has dedicated the first week in October to providing pet parents knowledge regarding the disease, including laying out some of the more common signs and symptoms of cat and dog cancer and how to tell if your pet is suffering from it.
Signs and Symptoms of Cancer in Pets
According to the Animal Cancer Foundation, the 10 most common indications of the disease are:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Lumps (masses forming throughout the body)
- Abdominal distension (stomach or belly enlargement/distortion)
- Chronic weight loss
- Chronic vomiting or diarrhea
- Straining to urinate
- Oral odor (bad breath)
How Can You Tell if Your Pet is Suffering from Cancer?
Despite knowing what to look out for when it comes to your pet possibly having cancer, the above symptoms can sometimes be tricky to notice or monitor. With this in mind, the only surefire way to know if your cat or dog has cancer is to take a trip to the vet.
"The best way to tell if your pet may have cancer is to bring any abnormalities you have detected to the attention of your family veterinarian," says Dr. Gerald Post, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (Oncology), MEM, and principal of The Veterinary Cancer Center. "Detecting a problem does not mean that your pet has cancer, [and] your veterinarian will need to do some tests (different tests for different cancer types) to prove that the diagnosis is cancer. Alternatively, your veterinarian may refer you to a board certified specialist (a veterinary oncologist or veterinary surgeon) to perform tests and confirm the diagnosis."
While your vet and associated specialists are the only ones who can confirm if your dog or cat has cancer, Dr. Post advises routine examinations and screenings in order to detect the disease earlier.
"As in people, early detection is one of the best ways to cure cancer," he says. "Pets should have routine physical examinations at least yearly and pets over five years old [should have exams] at least every six months."
While veterinary exams are always useful, there are techniques that you can practice at home in order to detect the disease earlier.
"One of the best things you can do is to visually and physically examine your pet during playtime, noticing any changes by running your hands over your pet, feeling the skin from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail, top and bottom, and up and down each limb to detect small changes on the surface," Dr. Post says. "You can also brush your pet's teeth on a daily basis, which is not only good for your pet's oral health, but will give you the opportunity to inspect the mouth--gums, teeth and tongue--for any abnormalities or changes."
While a cancer diagnosis is certainly scary, it doesn't mean you should give up hope for your pet. If your cat or dog's been diagnosed with the disease, be sure to check out some of these possible cancer treatment options.