Even though November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month, there’s never a bad time to talk about it. It’s a sad part of any type of medicine and more so when we’re talking about animals. They can’t tell us how they feel, they don’t have socialized health care, and they can’t take themselves to the veterinarian.
I’ve seen enough cancer cases that it breaks my heart each time, even more so when it could have been addressed early on and prevented more of a challenge to the pet and veterinary team along with costing less. In many cases, these pets are often euthanized because it’s just gone too far. In general practice, on average I’d say I see about 1 malignant cancer case every 3-4 weeks. Malignant equals bad; but sometimes even those benign masses can be problematic. And yes, sometimes those benign masses can morph into a malignant mass.
Why is this happening?
Pets are living longer, plain and simple. And while some people are aware of what to look for, we can do better.
What can we do?
Your pet needs to be seen by your veterinarian at least once a year, maybe every 6 months even, depending on their health status. You may be able to find a lump on your dog but there is more that could possibly be seen or detected by your veterinarian as well as determining normal versus abnormal. An exam is a start and some tests can be done whether simple or more complex.
My friend Dr. Sue Ettinger, DACVIM (yes, animal cancer specialist!) has created a program with a simple mantra – See Something, Do Something. This is an easy way to remember that if you see a lump, larger than a pea and there for more than a month, it’s time to get it checked out! A simple needle aspiration can save a life.
Cancer is not a death sentence. There are so many options out there and animals don’t experience the same side effects of chemo that people do. Surgery might be curative. Even if you’re not apt to go these routes, we can still help you palliate and keep your pet comfortable. One of the most important aspects of this is not waiting too long. Lumps start small and then they may grow. When these lumps grow, they become harder to treat, less chance for a successful outcome, and more expensive. Act sooner rather than later to give your pet the best chance.
Even though we might only focus on this for a month, there is always time to be aware of potential cancer problems with your pets. You are your pet’s biggest advocate and your veterinarian is there to help. We can’t do it alone though so heed this advice and make sure if you have concerns to bring them up to your vet as soon as you think there’s a problem.
Disclaimer: Blog posts may contain some opinions which are my own and may not reflect those of any current or former employers.