Cancer stinks, no matter if you have two legs or four. Thankfully, we are better than ever at diagnosing and treating cancer, but each year it still takes far too many of our animal friends.
While science has yet to find a cure for cancer, we are seeing more and more that early treatment and detection are vital in the successful treatment of many forms of the disease. Every pet owner needs to be aware of potential signs of cancer in pets so that they can be ready to mount an attack if need be. As with most things, the best defense against cancer is a good offense.
Signs of Cancer in Pets
Cancer can take many forms, and oftentimes the ways in which it rears its ugly head depend greatly on its type and location. Skin cancer, for instance, is going to unfold very differently than an intestinal tumor. In general, though, the signs of cancer in pets are ones that you won’t miss if you are paying attention. Your pet should be examined if he or she has:
- A swelling, lump, or bump that is new, changing, or growing
- An uncharacteristic odor
- Bloating of the belly
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- A bloody or infected appearing discharge
- Weight loss that is unexplained
- A wound that won’t heal
- A decrease or increase in appetite
- Coughing or difficulty breathing
- A change in personality or behavior
- A new limp, tender spot, or pain of unknown origin
- Changes in urination or defecation
While many of these symptoms can be signs of other problems and even benign conditions, none of them are normal and all warrant investigation.
Cancer Diagnostics for Pets
If we see a pet here at Union Lake Veterinary Hospital and suspect that he or she might have cancer, just how do we go about diagnosing them? The diagnostic tools we use depend on the symptoms and location of the problem. We can gain information from:
Our exam – Never underestimate the power of a good physical examination. Many times our highly skilled veterinarians are able to gain a lot of valuable information just by examining your pet.
Cytology – Cytology involves collecting a cellular sample from tissue such as microscopic cells from a needle (fine needle aspirate) or a fluid, and examining them under the microscope. Many types of cancer are readily diagnosed in this manner
Blood and urine tests – Sometimes blood and urine testing can help us to hone in on a diagnosis.
Radiographs – Radiographs, or X-rays, allow us to see details about the bones as well as the size, shape, and location of internal organs. This can be a valuable method to hunt for cancers.
Ultrasound – Ultrasound technology can show us tremendous details about the internal organs, so it is extremely helpful in finding and diagnosing problems.
Advanced imaging – Sometimes imaging technology such as MRI or CT scans are the best way to see what and where we need to see to diagnose a problem like cancer.
Biopsy – Ultimately, many times a sample of diseased tissue is required to help us obtain an accurate diagnosis and prognosis, as well as to formulate the most effective treatment plan.
Cancer in our beloved pet is not something that anyone wants to deal with, but by recognizing some of the early signs of cancer, we can increase our odds of beating the beast. Be sure to let us know right away if you have concerns about your pet, no worry is too small.