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My Pet Has Cancer… Now What Do I Do?

By Species, Cancer, Cats, Diagnosis, Dogs

According to the Veterinary Cancer Society, an estimated 6 million dogs and almost 6 million cats will be diagnosed with cancer this year alone! In fact, cancer kills 47% of dogs and 32% of cats. Although the same statistics are not available for all species of birds and exotic pets, veterinarians regularly diagnose cancer in these pets also!

Cancer is not a single disease. Animals can develop over 100 different types of cancer. A tumor can be benign or malignant, and be caused by genetics, environmental factors, viruses, toxins, and hormones. In fact, most researchers believe cancers are caused by multiple factors. Not all cancers are obvious lumps and bumps on the body. Some cancers invade or begin within a body organ and it will not always manifest itself as a growth or visible lump. Rather it may begin as a malfunction of that organ, especially if it involves the intestines or the rest of the digestive tract. Your pet may show very subtle sign as first, as lethargy or depression, or unexplained weight loss, or changes in bathroom habits, or breathing changes or coughing.

The first step in treating a cancer is determining the type of tumor (liver, lung, mouth, etc), and its grade. Determining these factors usually comes down to an early biopsy of the lump in question. Although some information may be obtained by a Fine Needle Aspirate (FNA) of a lump, most pathologists would recommend a full thickness biopsy of the tumor. In pets, as opposed to people, it is usually more practical, and more economically feasible to attempt to remove the entire growth/lump when surgery is performed for a biopsy, as opposed to having multiple anesthetic and surgical procedures.

The pathologist looking at the biopsy will not only identify the types of cells involved, with the probable site of origin of the tumor, but also classify the growth as benign or malignant, and with malignancies, the pathologist will grade the tumor based the rate of dividing cells. The pathologist will also give guidance based on the type of tumor and its “grade” as to the likelihood of spreading (metastasis) or the likelihood of reoccurrence. In addition, the pathologist will give an indication of the “margins” of normal tissue surrounding the tumor, a guide to the success of complete surgical removal.

Once they have all the necessary information, your veterinarian will recommend follow up therapies for tumors that are too malignant, or too difficult to remove via surgery. The doctor may recommend chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or possible future surgeries. At CEDARCREST Animal Clinic we regularly treat pets with chemotherapy, depending on the type of cancer involved. If your pet needs radiation therapy we can connect you with facilities that can assist us with that treatment.

As you can imagine, cancer can start out subtle, and may not always present as an obvious growing tumor. At the same time, it is important to diagnose cancer and the type of cancer as early as possible within the disease process. At CEDARCREST Animal Clinic we have a Board Certified Canine and Feline Specialist who can help assist you and your pet with the multidisciplinary approach that is often needed when your pet is confronted with cancer. Surgical procedures, medical therapies, oncological services and pain management and therapies must all be incorporated in some treatment protocols in a coordinated effort to successfully manage your pet’s condition. For those exotic pets and birds that present with tumors or cancerous conditions, we also have a Board Certified Avian Vet on staff.

Although cancer is always a serious condition, with the proper diagnosis and carefully coordinated treatment protocol, many of our pets can survive pain-free and with a quality of life that is acceptable to you and most importantly to your pet! Call us at 540-943-7577 if you have any other questions about cancer in pets, or would like to schedule a consultation.

CEDARCREST Animal Clinic provides medical and surgical care for every stage of your pet's life including preventive wellness care exams and vaccines, spays/neuters, and a variety of specialized care for your dog, cat, avian, or exotic. We are home to the only veterinarian practitioner in Virginia to be double Boarded in Avian and Canine/Feline care and provide care for birds, small mammals, and reptiles of all sorts! Plus, we are home to Virginia's most exclusive dog boarding resort that includes heated floors, an expansive play area, and even webcams so you can watch your pet while you're away. We're located in Fishersville, Virginia, and serve Augusta County and surrounding areas including Waynesboro, Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Charlottesville. 

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