Cancer in Animals

Since dogs and cats are now domesticated enough to qualify as semi humans, it is natural that the leading form of death in humans, cancer (Neoplasia), should become the leading cause of death in them as well.The medical science that studies cancer in animals is called veterinary oncology.


These are the signs you should watch out for:


1. Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow. While cancer is often an asymmetrical disease, lymphoma is a cancer that often occurs on both sides of the body. Therefore, even symmetrical swellings should not be ignored.


2. Sores that do not heal.


3. Weight loss.


4. Loss of appetite, or increased/decreased water intake.


5. Blood, pus, vomiting, diarrhoea or any other abnormal substance being discharged from any part of your pet’s body should be checked out. If your dog or cat’s abdomen becomes bloated or distended it could be a sign of an accumulation of abnormal discharge within the body.


6. Offensive odours from your dog or cat’s mouth, ears, or any other part of your pet’s body, should be checked out. Oftentimes cancers of the mouth, nose, or anal regions can cause such foul odours.


7. Difficulty eating or swallowing. Dogs and cats do not stop eating without a cause. While a lack of appetite does not automatically indicate cancer, it is still something to be taken seriously. Oral tumours can also cause difficulty or pain when eating.


8. Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina.


9. Persistent lameness or stiffness. Limping or other evidence of pain while the pet is walking, running, or jumping is mostly associated with arthritic issues or joint or muscle diseases, but it can also be a sign of cancer of the bone.


10. Abnormal urination (including increased urine), breathing, defecation .Changes in your pet’s urinary or bowel habits – difficulty in passing, increased frequency, blood in urine or stool.


Examine your pet thoroughly every month, including obtaining a body weight if possible. If your pet will allow you to safely examine their mouth, this should be done as well. The mouth is a common site of malignant cancers that go undetected until they are very advanced.


These are the common forms of cancer:


1. Skin tumours are very common in older dogs, but much less common in cats. While skin tumours in cats are frequently malignant, in dogs they are often benign. Fine needle aspiration cytology is a simple, non-invasive technique that may be used to differentiate between benign versus malignant skin tumours. Relying on physical examination of skin tumours alone is an imprecise method and unfortunately can allow malignant masses to go undetected.


2. Mammary Glands- 50% of all breast tumours in dogs and 85% of all breast tumours in cats are malignant. Spaying your female pet before her first heat cycle will greatly reduce the risk of mammary gland cancer. The risk of malignant mammary tumours in dogs spayed prior to their first heat is 0.05%. It is 8% for dog spayed after one heat, and 26% in dogs spayed after their second heat. Mammary tumours are observed as a solid mass or as multiple swellings. When tumours first appear they will feel like small pieces of pea gravel just under the skin. They are very hard and are difficult to move around under the skin. They can grow rapidly in a short period of time, doubling their size every month or so.


3. Neoplasia of the mouth and nose; signs to watch for are a mass or tumour in the oral cavity, bleeding, excess salivation, odour, facial swelling or deformity, or difficulty eating.


4. Lymphoma is a common type of neoplasia in dogs and cats. It is characterized by enlargement of one or many lymph nodes in the body. Between 15% and 20% of malignant tumours in dogs are lymphomas in the lymph nodes. spleen, liver, and other organs. Golden retrievers, boxers, bullmastiffs, basset hounds, Saint Bernards, Scottish terriers, Airedales, and bulldogs appear to be at increased risk of developing lymphomas. In cats, there appears to be a strong link between lymphoma and infection with feline leukaemia virus,

Tumours that develop in the lymph nodes often present as swellings with no other symptoms. When the lymphoma is present in the gastrointestinal tract, vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss, and lack of appetite are commonly seen. The chest form often shows shortness of breath and muffled heart sounds. The skin form can present in several different ways including single or multiple lumps in the skin, or mouth. These bumps can itch or be red and ulcerated. Lymphoma can also occur in the heart, eyes, central nervous system or bone.


5. Hemangiosarcoma in dogs is a malignant cancer that arises from the blood vessels and occurs more commonly in older dogs. Breeds that seem to be at a greater risk for hemangiosarcoma include German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Boxers. These appear on the skin as red or black raised growths or as lumps under the skin, with the overlying skin appearing normal. These spread fast. Spleen hemangiosarcoma symptoms include weakness or collapse and pale mucous membranes. Dogs will have symptoms of chronic blood loss, which include pale gums, irregular heart rate, and generalized weakness. Heart afflicted signs may include difficulty breathing, fainting, weakness, or sudden death. The heart will appear enlarged and round.


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