May is Pet Cancer Awareness Month and our own Director of Shelter Medicine, Dr. Becky DeBolt, has some great tips for us!
Cancer is a leading cause of death in our pets. It is important for owners to know the signs and to consult a veterinarian immediately. Some cancers take many tests to diagnose, but others are relatively simple to work up. Owners should know that if cancer goes unrecognized or untreated it can cause severe pain and suffering for your pet. I cannot stress enough that if a person cannot afford to get their pet’s condition diagnosed or treated, it is not ok to leave the pet to suffer. As their human guardians, we must make the hardest but most loving decision to protect them from pain and suffering; we must often elect to euthanize them. We offer this service at Young-Williams Animal Center 362 days a year.
The other side of this discussion is that cancer treatment in pets is not nearly as traumatic as it is in humans! Please discuss the options with your veterinarian. In veterinary medicine, we aim to extend quality of life. Pets’ hair doesn’t fall out with chemo and nausea is not as common. I think it’s usually worth starting a treatment and seeing how your pet does with it. If they have side-effects, then talk to your vet about stopping or decreasing treatment to a tolerable level. Animals are AMAZING – they don’t feel sorry for themselves or stress about the future. They tend to live a full life up until the moment when they become painful or no longer feel well; then we must do what is right for them.
Top 10 Signs of Cancer in Animals (as stated by the largest pet cancer treatment center – Colorado State University Animal Cancer Center)
- Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
Pet your pet! This is the best way to find lumps, bumps or swellings that could be anywhere on the body.
- Sores that do not heal
Non-healing sores can be a sign of infection or cancer. Your veterinarian can determine the reason why the sore is not healing.
- Weight loss
If your pet is not on a diet but is losing weight, illness could be to blame.
- Loss of appetite
It is not normal for pets to lose their appetite. This may be a sign of illness.
- Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
Bleeding can occur for numerous reasons – most of which are abnormal. Vomiting and diarrhea are abnormal discharges as well!
6. Offensive odor (bad smell)
This is a common sign especially for tumors in the mouth, nose or anus.
7. Difficulty eating or swallowing
This is a common sign of cancers of the mouth and neck region.
8. Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
This can be one of the first signs that your pet is not feeling well.
9. Persistent lameness (limping)
There could be many causes of lameness including nerve, muscle or bone cancer.
10. Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating
If your pet experiences any of these symptoms please have them evaluated by a veterinarian.