This is pet cancer awareness month. Every pet parent should be vigilant in screening their pets for cancer. Our pets are just like us. They get the same diseases we do and need the same medical treatment. The thought of a beloved pet dealing with cancer is horrific, I know.
MEGGIE WAS SUCH A SPECIAL DOG – I WAS DEVASTATED WHEN SHE GOT CANCER
My first experience with pet cancer was in 2002. My dog Meggie had bone cancer in her left hind leg. The vet ran several tests. He discovered that the cancer was contained in her left hind leg bone. We then made the agonizing decision to have it amputated. It was rough on her. She had to have IV fluids for the first 48 hours after she came home. However, a week later Meggie was up and walking on three legs! She got along well for a while, but she started to struggle so I ordered her a wheelchair. She liked her wheelchair and did well for several months but it all took its toll on her. She had a stroke before Thanksgiving and died in December of 2003.
STATISTICS SHOW THAT MANY DOGS WILL DEVELOP TUMORS
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association about one in four dogs will develop tumors. These tumors are mostly benign, but some are malignant. There are four types of tumors:
- Basal cell tumors that develop within the layer of the skin
- Lipomas, or fatty tumors that develop in the subcutaneous tissue
- Melanoma which is a dark spot on the skin
- Sweat gland tumors are usually around the head and neck and can be a bump around a hair follicle.
Statistics show that half of dogs over the age of ten are likely to develop some type of cancer.
ALTHOUGH CANCER IS LESS COMMON IN CATS, PET PARENTS STILL NEED TO BE VIGILANT
Oddly enough, cancer is less common in cats and their symptoms are harder to detect. Cats tend to mask their pain, so it is hard to tell when something is wrong. One of the prevalent cancers in cats is feline leukemia. We need pet cancer awareness concerning feline leukemia. There is a vaccine for feline leukemia but many pet parents don’t have their cats vaccinated. Exposure to feline leukemia makes a cat more susceptible to developing it.
Other cancers found in cats are:
- Soft tissue sarcoma that develops in the muscles or on an injection site
- Tumors that can be found in the liver, nose, brain, and lungs. Mammary tumors are less common due to people spaying their cats.
- Lymphoma, which is more common in cats than dogs.
SYMPTOMS TO LOOK FOR IN CATS AND DOGS
The symptoms for cats and dogs can vary, but here is a list to keep and watch out for:
- Diarrhea and or vomiting
- Bleeding from the mouth, nose, or blood in the stools
- Lumps or discolored skin
- Loss of appetite and changes in weight
- Swelling, lameness, visible tumor
- Difficulty eating or breathing
- Wounds that won’t heal
Since November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month, I’m telling you about my own experiences. I’m not looking for sympathy. This is just to make you mindful that cancer in pets is more common than you think.
LOSING A PET TO CANCER IS BEYOND HEARTBREAKING!
Our second experience with cancer came in 2014 for two of our dogs, Buffy and Joy. They both had sarcomas on their left thighs. We had Buffy’s removed that year, then in May of 2015 Buffy had a seizure. The vet put Buffy on seizure medication and had an MRI done. The results of the MRI were heartbreaking. The doctors told us that she had a malignant brain tumor. I had noticed that Buffy’s personality changed after her first seizure. She wasn’t the same lively border collie she once was. The seizures got worse and the medication stopped working. I hated to do it, but I had our vet humanely euthanize Buffy. Her quality of life was zero! Regardless of how much it hurt me, I had to set her free.
JOY WAS MOM’S DOG SO I STRUGGLED WITH TREATMENT DECISIONS
Joy had a sarcoma on her left thigh as well in 2014. Our vet removed it, it came back, then it was removed again. In 2016 it started coming back for a third time. Our vet told us that it wasn’t feasible to remove it again because there wasn’t enough skin left to close the incision. We were sent to the veterinary hospital for small animals at the University of Missouri. Poor Joy endured several tests and x-rays. Everyone we met told me how incredibly cute she was. When all was said and done I was told that amputation and radiation would be the only way to get rid of the cancer. I was conflicted and saddened. Joy was Mom’s dog and Mom had passed in 2015. I told them I’d have to think it over.
On the drive home, while Joy slept in the back of my SUV, I prayed. I wanted a message from Mom! I wanted Joy to have a good quality of life in lieu of quantity. My final decision was to let Joy live her life out and forego the amputation and radiation. I planned to address any pain that Joy may have had but she wasn’t in pain. I wanted her to enjoy her life.
In May of 2017 Joy suddenly got sick and quit eating. I took her to the vet and x-rays showed something in her stomach, but the vet wasn’t too concerned. Joy stayed at the vet hospital that day and was given medications and fluids. The next night Joy was panting hard and could not move. I raced her to the animal ER, but she passed away on the way there. I was heartbroken, but now she was back with Mom.
PREVENTION AND CLOSE MONITORING CAN SAVE THE FAMILY PET
Veterinarians should talk to clients about pet cancer awareness. Prevention and watching for early signs are paramount in saving our pets. There are many ways to treat cancer in pets, but the key is catching it early. There are many things we can do to help prevent pet cancer as well.
- Spay or neuter your pet. Animals that are spayed and neutered have a minimal chance of developing mammary or testicular cancer.
- Examine your pet on a regular basis. Check your pet for lumps and any skin discolorations.
- Check your pet’s stools. If your pet needs to make numerous trips outside check its stools for anything bloody or black.
- Get regular dental exams and teeth cleaning for your pet. A bad tooth can create a lot of problems in an animal’s system.
- Watch for odd behavior. If your pet is acting odd and seems out of sorts, a visit to the vet for a checkup may be in order.
NOVEMBER IS PET CANCER AWARENESS MONTH – LETS SPREAD THE WORD
We need to do our best to spread the word. Pet cancer awareness is so important. Cancer is one disease that people don’t think about when it comes to our pets. I didn’t think about cancer when Buffy had her first seizure. Now I know better. Please help us bring pet cancer awareness to the forefront. We love our pets dearly because they are family; we need to take care of them as family.