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pet cancerJust like humans, pets are susceptible to getting diseases and cancer is no exception. As your pet ages it is not uncommon for them to develop cancer. Getting the news that your lovable pet has cancer can be devastating and shocking. Learning and knowing the stages of the disease and treatment will help you provide a better quality of life for your furry friend.


Types of Pet Cancer

There are various types of cancer that can affect different areas of your pet’s body. Some of the types of cancers are specific to either cats or dogs, and others that may be more prevalent in specific breeds. The cancers specific to felines are less common but can still occur. Unfortunately, cancer in dogs is more widespread and has more types.


Feline Cancers

  • Leukemia – is a virus that affects the immune system. Possible signs of this cancer include loss of appetite, lethargy, weight loss, increased infections and swelling. Feline leukemia is transmitted through bodily fluids of the cats. There are treatment options and many cats live approximately two years after diagnosis.
  • Lymphoma – This affects the white blood cells and the immune system. The cancer is generally found in the lymph nodes and bone marrow.


More Common Canine Cancers

  • Lymphoma – is found in the lymph nodes and bone marrow and affects the immune system. This cancer starts with swollen lymph nodes in the neck or behind the knees and can progress  rapidly.
  • Hemangiosarcoma – generally found in the organs or under the skin, this type of cancer generally does not show any signs until the later stages. Hemangiosarcoma is predominantly found in the larger dog breeds.
  • Mast Cell Tumors – usually found in the skin and soft tissues. This cancer affects the immune system. Mast cell tumors generally start as lesions on the skin.
  • Melanoma – is skin cancer that can be found in any pigmented part of the body, including the eyes. The first signs of this cancer may be dark areas in the skin or color changes in the eyes. This is another rapidly progressive cancer.
  • Osteosarcoma – is found in the bone. Osteosarcoma may start by showing signs of swelling or lameness. This cancer grows quickly and the tumors are usually malignant.
  • Mammary Cancer – are tumors that are found in the mammary glands usually in female dogs. This type of cancer is generally missed because it first appears as a small nodule.

Early Warning Signs

If you can catch the warning signs early enough, the chances of recovery increase. Check your pet for any lumps, lesions, swelling or tenderness to the touch and contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns. Some of the signs to look for include:

  • Swelling
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lack of energy

Are Lumps Cancerous?

Not all lumps are cancerous, but it is best to err on the side of caution and take your pet to the vet to be checked out.  Once your pet has been checked, continue to monitor for lumps and advise your pet’s doctor of any changes. Generally the lumps that are not cancerous are fatty tumors but still need to be watched closely for any changes.


Treatment and Care

Just like any medical care, treatment can be expensive. Once the diagnosis has been received, talk with your pet’s doctor for your options. When discussing your options you need to not only consider the cost of the treatment but also the quality of life of your pet. Factors to include in your decision process are the stage of the cancer, your overall pet’s health, cost of treatment and possible additional after care.


Getting the news that treatment is not an option is the most helpless feeling you may have. When the cancer is in the advanced stages and is progressing rapidly, keeping your pet as comfortable as possible until the end is the most important care you can give your furry friend.


Another aspect of the care for a pet with cancer is the pet’s family. The loss of a loved one including a pet is very difficult. Not only do you need to take care of your pet but you need to take care of you and your family’s needs, including emotionally. If you need additional support, there are several support groups for families of pets with cancer. These groups can not only offer emotional support but also provide you with information on the progression of the disease. Knowing what to expect can help prepare you mentally and emotionally.


For more information on pets with cancer and the treatment and care, contact Dr. Foye and our team at Longview Animal Hospital.