Canine cancer treatment and prognosis

April 13, 2012

Cancer kills! Cancer is a most loathed word. A cancer diagnosis would have a significant impact not only for the concerned person but also for the whole family. Cancer mean a long hard battle to overcome the disease. We all know that cancer happens not only to humans but also to animals. And yet, pet owners would still be shocked to learn that the dog has this dreaded disease.

Thousands of dogs are diagnosed to have cancer each year. Statistics say that about 25% of dogs contact this disease and 50% of dogs ten years and over of age would have cancer as the cause of death. This goes to show that growth of abnormal malignant cells is common not only in humans but in canines as well. The good news is that unlike several decades ago where the most common resolve a pet owner would have is to euthanize the dog, a pet owner can now has several options on how the pet will be treated. As with cancer in humans, canine cancer cannot be totally prevented but there are now precautionary measures that will lower the risk of the pet to develop cancer.

Canine cancer is on the rise. More and more dogs contract this disease. It is therefore necessary for a pet owner to have an idea about the causes, the types, the treatment and the prognosis of canine cancer. Various types of cancer can affect the dog. Normal cells can transform into malignant cells in any part of the body. The growth process of cells is maintained from the moment an ovum is fertilized up to the death of the dog. Cells that die are quickly replaced with new cells. The balance between dying cells and newly produced cells is maintained. It is when this balance is disrupted that a disease occurs. For instance, one cell that rapidly divides will give rise to unneeded cells and developed into a tumor. This growth can be benign tumor if it will not dangerously affect the dog. Tumors composed of cells that break away from the original type and spread to the other part of the body are malignant. This cells that metastasized are responsible for the development of various types of cancer.

Bone cancer (osteosarcoma), lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, mammary carcinoma, mastocytomas and mouth, bladder and prostate are the most common types of canine cancer. Most dogs respond to treatment especially if the cancer is diagnosed and treatment administered while on its early stage. This disease though is a serious one and success of treatment often depends on the age and on the general well being of the pet. Treatment effectiveness will also depend on the type and on the stage of the cancer. The prognosis is usually not favorable if the cancer is on an advanced stage.

In young and healthy dogs, surgery is the most common treatment choice. The tumor will be excised and the surrounding tissues that can be the site of metastasis will be removed. This will be followed through with radiation therapy to control the recurrence of tumor. Dogs with well differentiated tumor cells usually have positive prognosis. A good percentage of dogs that have undergone surgery have long time survival. Chemotherapy is often the choice for inoperable cases. Although surgery and chemotherapy can be very difficult for an aged and a less than fit dogs, these modern veterinary cancer treatments have granted remission of the disease to 80% of the treated dogs.

It is understandable for pet owners to will the complete recovery of the dog. Pet parents that have formed a strong bond with the dog will feel duty bound to continue the treatments of the pet. A canine oncologist’s opinion though would be invaluable in deciding if the treatment must be continued or whether euthanasia is the best option to spare the pet from further pain and discomfort.

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