Unfortunately, cancer in pets is quite common, with about 6 million dogs and 6 million cats diagnosed each year in the United States. In fact, cancer is the top cause of death in pets over ten years old in the country, with as much as 50% fatalities.
The good news is that some cancer in pets is treatable, depending on the type of cancer, its severity, and your pet’s overall health. If they survive, they can have happy and healthy lives.
Cancer in Pets
Many types of cancer can affect pets, with causes ranging from environmental factors to genetics, depending on the type.
For example, sun exposure can cause skin cancer in dogs and cats. This is why it’s essential to keep your pet out of the sun, especially during peak hours, and apply sunscreen to their exposed areas when they go outside.
Other types of cancers are more common in certain breeds. For instance, Golden Retrievers have a higher risk of developing lymphoma, while Scottish Terriers are more likely to get bladder cancer.
Certain cancers are also more common in older pets. For example, osteosarcoma (bone cancer) is most commonly diagnosed in seven dogs. In comparison, intestinal adenocarcinoma (cancer of the intestine) is more likely to affect cats over ten years old.
This is why vets recommend cat and dog routine checkups every six months for pets over seven years old and every three to six months for those over ten years old. These checkups help to catch any cancers early when they’re most treatable.
Most Common Types of Cancer
- Lymphoma: This is a lymphocyte cancer, the white blood cells that help fight infection. It is the most common type of cancer in cats and one of the most common in dogs.
- Bone Cancer: This cancer type typically starts in the cells of the bones and is more common in larger breeds of dogs.
- Mammary Cancer: This cancer type affects the mammary glands, which are milk-producing glands, in female dogs and cats. It is more common in older, intact (not spayed) females.
- Skin Cancer: Skin cancer is fairly common in dogs and cats, especially those with light-colored fur.
Cancer Treatment Options for Pets
Treatment for cancer in pets depends on the cancer type, severity, and overall health of your pet, but here are the most commonly available:
This is often the first treatment option for cancer in pets. Vets can recommend it to remove the entire tumor or just a part of it. Your vet will recommend surgery if they believe it will be fully effective and your pet is healthy enough to undergo it.
Chemotherapy is among the most prevalent cancer treatments that use drugs to kill cancer cells and can be administered intravenously, orally, or topically. It is often combined with other treatment options such as surgery or radiation therapy.
This treatment type utilizes high-energy waves to kill cancer cells. It is often combined with chemotherapy or surgery. Veterinary radiation oncology is a specialized field, so you may need to take your pet to a referral center for this treatment.
This newer treatment option uses drugs or other substances to target specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. It is also typically used in combination with chemotherapy or surgery.
Immunotherapy uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer. It is a newer type of treatment that is still being studied in veterinary medicine but shows promise for treating certain types of cancer.
Cancer is a serious disease that can affect pets of all ages, breeds, and genders. Early detection through routine vet checkups is key to successful treatment. It’s also essential to have them vaccinated against common diseases (click here for more info). Ultimately, find a reputable vet you trust to give your pet the best possible care.