Cancer is a devastating diagnosis for anyone, but when it comes to our furry friends, it can be even more heart-wrenching. Unfortunately, cancer is a disease that affects dogs and cats too. In this blog post, we’ll explore the different types of cancer that can affect our beloved pets, their symptoms, and treatment options available. We’ll also discuss how to prevent cancer in dogs and cats and provide some tips on how to support them through their journey. If you’re a pet owner or simply a lover of animals, this blog post is a must-read. So let’s dive in and learn more about cancer in dogs and cats.
Cancer in dogs and cats is a common occurrence and needs prompt and decisive veterinary attention. Pets with cancer elicits such a strong emotional impact on the animal’s caretakers, too, and can be one of the most devastating afflictions of pets. Huge strides are being taken to help veterinarians recognize cancer in animals and to assist in control and cure of cancer in dogs and cats and other animals. And the incalculable benefits to mankind made by animals that have served as models of human cancer cannot be overestimated. The advances in human cancer diagnosis and treatment often mirror the same protocols veterinarians utilize to diagnose, control and treat cancer in animals. The presentation here is intended to simply introduce this huge topic to pet owners and to display a few stark reminders of how devastating cancer can be to our animal friends.
Cancer in dogs and cats
WHAT IS CANCER?
Cancer… any malignant, cellular tumor; cancers are divided into two broad categories of carcinoma and sarcomas.
Neoplasm… An abnormal new growth of tissue in animals or plants; a tumor
Tumor… 1.) a swelling; a cardinal sign of inflammation. 2.) neoplasm: a new growth of tissue in which cell multiplication is uncontrolled and progressive.
Benign tumor… one lacking the properties of invasion and metastasis and showing a lesser degree of abnormal cellularity than than do malignant tumors. These are usually surrounded by a fibrous capsule.
Malignant tumor… has the properties of invasion and metastasis and displays cells with widely varying characteristics
Carcinoma… a malignant growth made up of epithelial cells tending to infiltrate surrounding tissues and gives rise to metastases.
Sarcoma… a malignant tumor originating from connective tissue or blood or lymphatic tissues.
Metastasize… spread throughout the body, of cancer cells
Growth… can refer to any kind of an abnormal increase in size of tissue
Lump… can be a growth or fluid filled cyst or any structure raising above the normal surface of a tissue plane
WHAT ARE SOME TREATMENTS FOR CANCER IN DOGS AND CATS?
Three basic methods of treatment exist when dealing with cancer in dogs and cats. One is medical management where targeted drugs are used that either have an inhibiting effect on tumor growth or actually effect the death of cancer cells. Another method is surgery that attempts to excise the tumor. Some surgical procedures effect a total cure if all the cancer cells are removed. In other surgical procedures, where total excision is not feasible, surgery can help to reduce the amount of tumor load in the patient. Follow-up surgery to an initial procedure may also be helpful in controlling the advancement of cancer growth. The third method of treating tumors in dogs and cats is through the use of radiation therapy. This sophisticated and complex technique is usually done by Specialists in Veterinary Radiology. The employment of one, two or all three approaches to therapy may be done in some patients. Unfortunately, regardless of the therapies used, some patients will not survive long term if the cancer has metastasized or is of a type that does not respond to targeted therapy. Each case must be evaluated on its own because no two cancer patients are exactly alike.
Thanks to veterinary and human medical researchers, and the efforts of major drug companies, newer medication, surgical techniques, diagnostic instruments and procedures are continually upgrading the way veterinarians diagnose and treat cancer in dogs and cats. Nutritional issues and alternative therapies are gaining in popularity because of increased awareness of the the overall health of the patient and how good health can assist in improved resistance to cancer and aid in a cancer patient’s recovery. Genetic and environmental factors are slowly but surely revealing their role in the development of tumors in dogs and cats.
If you suspect any unusual growth in your pet, be sure to bring it to the attention of your veterinarian. And be proactive in getting an assessment of what that growth is and how it might affect your pet’s health. Keep in mind, too, that not every growth requires surgery or chemotherapy.
Progress Made in Determination of Heritable Risk Factors For Canine Lymphoma
Raleigh, NC – Researchers have announced that prevalence of B-cell and T-cell lymphomas among certain dog breeds indicates heritable risk (Cancer Research, Vol 65, No. 13, July 2005). This research, led by Drs. Jaime Modiano, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and Matthew Breen, North Carolina State University, was possible in part by grants made by the Canine Health Foundation to study lymphoma in several breeds, and has been sponsored by 21 breed clubs, corporations, and individuals.
According to Modiano and Breen, “The predisposition of certain breeds to develop lymphoma has been recognized for a long time, but this is the first indication that the tumors themselves harbor breed-specific genetic abnormalities. This opens new avenues for investigation that will help us to identify specific genes that contribute to the risk of lymphoma in dogs, and possibly in people.”
Cancer risk has long been believed to have heritable components. However, genes that may be causally related to sporadic cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma have been difficult to pinpoint. This research shows that the prevalence of B-cell and T-cell lymphomas differs among dog breeds. Additionally, it determined that these different prevalence rates are shared among dog breeds that are closely related. The article in the publication Cancer Research states “…these results indicate that recurrent genetic abnormalities that occur with significantly higher frequency in a single dog breed can assist in the identification of candidate genes that may be associated with the origin or progression of both canine and human cancers.”
Dogs make an excellent model to study heritability factors in cancer. According to the investigators, “The limited level of genetic heterogeneity within dog breeds, combined with the fact that the incidence and lifetime risk of naturally occurring (disease) differs among dog breeds, offers a unique opportunity to identify genetic risk factors that contribute to the pathogenesis of (disease).”
“Canine cancer has long been the top concern among our clubs and individuals,” states president, Wayne Ferguson. “It is so gratifying to see that we are helping to lead the charge against identifying the risk factors and genetic markers for this dreaded disease. In fact, cancer research accounts for more than 30% of the AKC Canine Health Foundation’s total grant allocations in the last 10 years.”
The AKC Canine Health Foundation, founded in 1995 by the American Kennel Club, is the largest nonprofit worldwide to fund health research exclusively for canines. Its goal is to help dogs live longer, healthier lives. Because canines and humans share much of the same genome, much of the research on canine diseases applies to people as well. In this, our tenth anniversary, the AKC Canine Health Foundation is proud to announce it has allocated more than $13 million in canine health research through 52 schools and research institutions for about 275 studies.
Cancer is a devastating disease that can affect both dogs and cats. As pet owners, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer in our furry friends so that we can seek early detection and treatment. From lumps and bumps to changes in appetite or behavior, any unusual changes should be brought to the attention of a veterinarian. With advancements in veterinary medicine, there are now various treatment options available to help manage and fight cancer in pets. If you have any questions or want to share your own experiences with cancer in dogs or cats, please let us know in the comments below. Together, we can support each other and provide the best care possible for our beloved companions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is cancer so common in cats and dogs?
Our pets naturally endure greater cell damage as they age, which increases their risk of developing cancer, and their immune systems become less effective at eliminating cancerous cells. In the US, there are more than 50% of overweight or obese cats and dogs. Cancer risk factors in both humans and animals include obesity.
How common is cancer in dogs and cats?
The incidence of cancer in dogs is nearly the same as that in humans, however less is known about the incidence of cancer in cats. There are some cancers that affect cats more frequently than dogs, like lymphoma. Neoplasia affects about 1 in 4 dogs at some point in their lives.
Why is cancer so common in dogs?
While every dog is susceptible to developing any sort of cancer, there are hereditary and environmental stresses that make cancer and tumors more likely in dogs. Additionally, some breeds are naturally predisposed to particular cancers.