Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in the body, often referred to as a malignancy. Dogs and cats can get cancer just like people do, and many of the diseases are very similar between the two species. There are well over 100 types of cancer in animals and can occur in any part of the body.
When you think about cancer, it usually happens in older pets. They are very good at hiding their illness, so often times the family may feel as though they missed symptoms in their pets.
What types of cancer can animals get?
The most common type of cancer treated in dogs and cats is a type of blood cancer called Lymphoma. It’s very similar to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in people. Other common cancers and from what we understand, cancer is not overly painful in animals. They act as though they have the flu and are more tired than normal.
Most dogs get cancer between the ages of 6-8 years old and it can happen to any size or breed of dog. Cancer has become much more common in dogs with 25% getting it during their lifetime. There are many breeds that are prone to cancer, such as Boxers, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds.
One in 5 cats will get cancer in their lifetime. Any type of cat can get cancer but Siamese cats tend to have higher propensity for it compared to other breeds.
How is treatment different in animals compared to people?
The driving factor in treating our pets for cancer is to keep their quality of life as good as possible. The philosophy of most veterinary oncologists is “if the treatment becomes worse than the disease, then we don’t do it”.
If you have ever watched a person go through cancer treatment, it can be extremely hard on them. We give dogs and cats lower doses of drugs so we minimize the side effects. The trade-off is that we tend to not cure many cancers in animals. We want them to be as happy as possible during their lives.
The goal is to keep them happy and as normal as possible.
Types of Cancer Treatments
Depending upon the type of cancer your pet has, there are a variety of treatments that may be available. For example, surgery can be used to remove tumors. Radiation therapy can be used to decrease pain from bone tumors and shrink melanomas in the mouth. Chemotherapy is used in blood cancers like lymphoma and multiple myeloma, while targeted therapy is used for mast cell tumors. There is even immunotherapy for melanoma and lymphoma that helps to use the body’s natural immune system to help fight the cancer.
Sometimes we will use steroids such as Prednisone to treat certain cancers, while non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) can be used in other tumors.
Electrochemotherapy is also available for certain types of cancer. This can be a very effective treatment without being too invasive, especially for older pets.
While cancer is not the word any of us want to hear when it comes to our pets, there are many options that could give them a very good quality of life. Please contact Dr. Tansey and the team at MarQueen Upland to schedule a consultation.