Do dogs get cancer?

April 13, 2012

Cancer is a dreaded word. People have to deal with this word one time or another. The possibility of losing a loved one to this killer disease would be hard to come to terms with. Dogs get cancer too. Dogs are considered as family members. A lot of senior citizens that live alone find solace in having a dog for a companion. It would not be uncommon for senior members of the society to devote all their time, affection and even resources to care for a dog. Unfortunately, statistics show that one third of dogs succumb to cancer. No dog owner would want to learn the depressing fact that the pet has cancer but as this condition cannot be totally eliminated, it pays to have the knowledge that can help the pet if ever this dreaded killer disease would strike.

Fifty percent of deaths of dogs ten years and over in age are attributed to different types of cancer. Fighting this disease that is caused by the abnormal growth of malignant cells has become distressing battle for dog owners. Luckily, with the advancement in medicine, dog owners no longer have to take the option of putting down the dog. The battle to overcome this dreaded disease is made easier by the discovery of several treatment options. The development of canine cancer is pretty much the same as the development of abnormal growth in humans. The process of cell division that is started during the fertilization of the ovum is maintained until the dog dies. Cells that died will be replaced with new ones but an abnormal growth will result to the development of an “unnecessary” cell. These cells will develop into a benign or malignant tumor that will spread to other parts of the body.

There are various types of canine cancer but the most common are lymphoma, breast cancer or mammary carcinoma, bone cancer and mastocytomas. Just as with the different types of cancers that affects humans, early diagnosis of canine cancer would give the pet a better chance to survive. With a battery of tests, a vet can give the accurate diagnosis regarding the condition of the pet. However, a dog owner has to have a fair amount of knowledge regarding the early signs of cancer. Abnormal lumps and swelling, sores that would not heal are signs that must not be ignored. Dogs have huge appetites thus a pet parent should take note of the pet’s inappetance. The dog would lose weight and have an unpleasant breath. Lethargy would make the dog sleep more than usual. The performance of normal bodily functions would be difficult for a dog with cancer. The pet would have breathing, urinating and defecating difficulties. A dog that bleeds or has discharge in any body opening must be taken to a veterinary facility at once.

The pet would have to go through a thorough physical examination, and a series of tests. Unlike other ailments, x-ray and blood test may not be enough to determine if the dog has cancer. A biopsy may be necessary as well. A sample tissue will be removed to be examined for cancerous cells. Localized tumors have the best chance of being cured. A combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy can send the dog to full recovery. If the tumor has metastasized or has spread to other parts of the body, recovery would not be possible. The best thing that can be done is to make the pet comfortable. Complete pain management will be necessary. The dog must be encouraged to eat. A home cooked meal would be more appetizing than commercial food. Supplements and alternative cancer treatments are proven to improve the appetite and the energy of the pet.

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