Cancer and Pets: Everything You Need To Know


Unfortunately, cancer can strike even the best of us, including our beloved pets. In fact, cancer affects dogs and cats as much as it does humans.

Fortunately, many pets are able to live normal lives with cancer as long as they receive proper treatment.

In this article, we’ll cover what you need to know about cancer in pets and how you can help your pet through the entire process.


10 Signs Your Pet Might Have Cancer

It’s never easy to find out that a loved one has cancer, so it can be equally devastating when your pet is diagnosed with the disease. Cancer is one of the most common types of death for dogs and cats.

Here are a few key symptoms that may indicate that your furry family member is sick

1) A dramatic change in appetite or weight can signal a variety of illnesses like cancer, anorexia, or diabetes.

2) Sores on their skin should always be checked by a veterinarian because they could potentially have a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.

3) Sometimes you’ll notice signs on their eyes such as discharge, redness, ulcers, or unusual lumps around the eye area.

4) Lumps found anywhere else on their body should also be investigated thoroughly by your vet because they could potentially turn out to be cancerous tumors.

5) Behavioral changes such as excessive meowing, biting themselves excessively, refusing to eat or drink water, or displaying aggressive behavior could all be signs of pain due to cancer.

6) Difficulty breathing can signify lung cancer; difficulty urinating can signify bladder cancer; diarrhea and vomiting can signify intestinal obstruction from pancreatic tumor.

7) Unusual bleeding from any part of the body should always be investigated by a veterinarian who will perform tests like x-rays, ultrasounds, blood workups and biopsies if necessary.

8) Weight loss and hair loss are both major indicators of many cancers including leukemia, lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, melanoma, mast cell tumor and more.

9) Swollen glands on either side of the neck usually indicates a bacterial infection in these glands which often leads to cancers like lymphomas.

10) Persistent coughing, wheezing, sneezing, or limping could be signs of canine respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

Cats are more likely to get upper respiratory infections (similar to humans), so those symptoms would be worse than the ones listed above.


Is There Any Treatment Available?

Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options available for pets with cancer. There is no one perfect treatment plan because each dog’s cancer is different.

However, in the majority of cases, chemotherapy or radiation therapy are administered to give the pet a chance at fighting the cancer. With these treatments, about 50% of patients show some type of response.

Some dogs respond well enough that they can live for an extended period without any progression or recurrence of cancer cells. Other animals do not have as good of a response, but may still have time left before their illness progresses too far.

If your dog has been diagnosed with cancer, be sure to speak with your veterinarian about what treatments are available and which would be best for your pet’s situation.

Some people choose to administer alternative treatments alongside traditional veterinary care. Keep in mind that, while it may seem easier to stop all medications after your pet’s death.

You should consult with your vet first to find out if stopping could lead to adverse effects on other family members who might have had contact with the animal during its illness.


Surgery Options Are Available

In some cases, your pet will require surgery to address the cancer. This is a complex decision that involves several factors, such as the type of cancer, whether it has spread throughout the body, if it has metastasized (spread), how long your pet is expected to live even with treatment, and what stage of the cancer they have.

Cancerous tissue that isn’t removed will continue growing. In some cases, an animal’s pain can be relieved by removing or cutting out their organs.

Your veterinarian may suggest this option in cases where the tumor grows near nerves, bones, blood vessels, or other organs. It may also be suggested when a tumor is blocking food from passing through your pet’s digestive tract.

If your veterinarian suggests surgery for one of these reasons, you’ll need to decide if you want to give consent for the procedure.

The time frame before deciding is different depending on the circumstances; sometimes you’ll only have minutes to decide while other times you’ll have days.


Side Effects of Treatments

Unfortunately, cancer treatments may have some side effects. The extent of the side effects will depend on the type of treatment, what drugs are used and their dose.

Treatment-related side-effects can include anemia (low levels of red blood cells), neuropathy (numbness or tingling in hands or feet), bone marrow suppression, infertility, loss of body hair (hair does not always grow back).

Longer term side effects may include secondary cancers caused by radiation therapy. Cancer survivors also experience other long-term problems such as fatigue, decreased immunity, and pain.

It is important for people who have been diagnosed with cancer to talk about these feelings with friends and family members so they can be helped through this difficult time.

A support group could also be helpful because it allows people who have had similar experiences to share information, feelings, and coping strategies.

It is also very important for people with cancer to take care of themselves after their treatment is over by having regular checkups.


How Long Do People Survive With Advanced Cancer?

If your pet has cancer, you may be concerned about how long they will live. Depending on the type of cancer, the speed at which it progresses, the kind of treatment they are getting, and a host of other factors including the pet’s age and overall health prior to diagnosis.

For many pets living with advanced cancer, they will survive anywhere from a few months to several years after diagnosis. Dogs tend to have more aggressive cancers than cats do, so their prognosis is often less favorable.

The median survival time for dogs diagnosed with late-stage metastatic cancer is around 11 months; cats diagnosed with metastatic tumors typically live an average of 24 months.

It is important to note that there are significant individual differences in lifespan between different animals with cancer, as well as changes over time in response to treatment.

Cancer therapy can sometimes extend life by several months or even years, but not always. It is difficult to predict how long your pet will live and it’s important not to rush them through treatments if their quality of life declines.


Does My Dog Need Radiation Treatment?

A dog may need radiation treatment if the cancerous tumor is near one of the organs. If a tumor is found near an organ, it’s very important that they remove the tumor while trying not to damage that organ.

But in some cases, the tumor cannot be removed without damaging the organ so they might have to do radiation therapy instead. There are times when both surgery and radiation therapy are needed to fully remove a tumor from the body.

Dogs often feel sick after their treatments, but most will recover within a few days. Dogs can also develop side effects like hair loss, which is just temporary. 

If you’re worried about your pet getting cancer because you’ve been diagnosed with the disease, there’s no need to worry as dogs can’t get human cancers such as breast or prostate cancer.

Dogs usually live much longer than humans so you’ll likely outlive your furry friend who has become your best friend!


Where Can I Find More Information on Canine Cancers?

If you’re thinking about getting a dog, you may want to take into account that some of the most common cancers in dogs are also found in humans. Many experts recommend pets for people with cancer.

A pet’s love can help improve your emotional health and reduce your risk of mortality by providing a social support system.

Your family physician can determine if pets can be helpful for you, based on your diagnosis, physical condition, emotional status, lifestyle needs, and financial resources.

You might need to speak with an animal behaviorist, who will assess how well your pet gets along with other animals, or how they might react during difficult times.

You should also consult a veterinarian before bringing home any new furry friend!

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