Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital’s Blog
An Informed Owner’s Guide to Cancer in Pets
Taking care of a pet can be a wonderfully fulfilling endeavor. The unconditional love, those snuggles just when you need them, and the ever-present companionship are unbeatable. Chances are that your beloved pet has been there for you through the good and the bad, and even though it can be difficult to think about, we must be there for them through their ups and downs as well.
Like it or not, at some time or another your pet is going to need you. We all age, and with this process comes the inevitable development of problems. As our pet population lives longer and longer, we are diagnosing cancer at an increasing rate. As many as half of all senior pets are diagnosed with cancer of some type.
While we hope you never need to be in a position to lean on us, please know that Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital is here for you when it comes to understanding and battling cancer in pets.
Why Bad Things Happen to Good Critters
Cancer is one of those things that can occur despite all of our best efforts. Pets develops this disease at roughly the same rate as humans, making it an all-too-common diagnosis.
Cancer in pets happens when a population of cells or tissue within the body begins to grow abnormally. Often this means that it grows outside of normal restrictions, enlarging a certain area. Slower growing tumors may simply displace surrounding tissues, impeding their function. More aggressively growing cancers may actually invade the surrounding tissues and can spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body.
We are still in the infancy of fully understanding why cells in the body sometimes go rogue, but many factors are likely in play. Genetics, exposure to cancer-causing substances, and the aging process may all play a role.
Cancer can affect almost any organ or tissue within the body, making symptoms variable. Signs of cancer in pets can include:
- An enlarged abdomen
- Difficulty breathing
- Decreased appetite
- Development of lumps/bumps
- Non-healing wounds
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Weight loss
Of course many other things can cause these symptoms as well. It is important to contact us for an appointment if you observe any of these symptoms so that we can get started helping your pet right away.
Waging War on Cancer in Pets
While we can’t always prevent cancer, we can take some steps to create a less hospitable environment for it to live in. You can help to decrease your pet’s cancer risk by:
Decrease exposure to carcinogens — Most things that are known to increase cancer risks in people likely do in pets as well. Eliminate known carcinogens such as cigarette smoke and aggressive cleaning products containing phthalates from your home.
Make good nutrition a priority — We know that helping your pet maintain a healthy body weight and providing a good quality diet developed under the guidance of a veterinary nutritionist can help minimize the risk of cancer (and many other health issues).
Take a proactive role — Knowing what types of cancer your pet may be at risk for can be a powerful tool. Certain breeds are more likely to develop certain problems, and being on the lookout for these can help us to detect trouble earlier. Bringing your pet in to see us for routine wellness visits can also aid in early detection.
If you find yourself facing a diagnosis of cancer in a beloved pet, rest assured that we have more and better options than ever before for treatment. Depending on the type and stage of cancer diagnosed, modalities including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and adjunctive treatments such as acupuncture can offer incredible benefits.
Cancer in pets is not a pleasant topic, but a better understanding of what it is and what we can do is essential. Knowledge is power, and together we can give our pet patients the best, no matter the diagnosis. Don’t hesitate to contact your team at Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital for more information.