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What Is Cancer?

Cancer is an unrestrained growth of cells that destroys normal tissue as it grows. Various types of cancer can behave very differently within the body. Some cancers are very aggressive and can spread (metastasize) fairly quickly throughout the body. Other cancers are slow growing and are more unlikely to spread. Even the same type of cancer in two individual pets can behave very differently. Many of the same types of cancer that affect people can also affect pets.

What Are the Signs Associated with Cancer in Pets?

 

      For more info:

The Veterinary Cancer Society developed a list of the 10 most common signs of cancer in companion animals:

  • Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bleeding or discharge from anywhere on the body
  • Offensive odor
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
  • Persistent lameness or stiffness
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating

Veterinary Cancer Society (VCS) logo

How Common is Cancer in Dogs and Cats?

Cancer is the leading cause of death in pets in the United States. It is typically an older age disease, but can affect a pet of any age. Cancer is also not always life threatening and many types of cancer are manageable or treatable for a very long time.

What Causes Cancer in Pets?

With a few exceptions, most cancer causes are not fully understood. Many suspected factors have been investigated and may play a role in cancer, such as environmental toxins (i.e., sun exposure, lawn chemicals), viruses and aging. Additionally, certain genetic predispositions have been proposed for certain cancers and we know certain breeds of dogs are more likely to get certain types of cancer.

What Cancer Treatment Options Are Available at Wright Animal Hospital?

  • Surgery can be used to completely remove or debulk (reduce the size) of a pet's tumor. Sometimes surgery alone can cure a patient and no other treatment will be needed. More often surgery results in reducing the tumor to make further treatment more successful. Pets usually recover within 2 weeks and further treatment, if necessary, can be initiated after stitches are removed.

  • Chemotherapy means treating the disease with medications. Each type of cancer has specific medications that may be effective for treatment. Chemo can be administered either by injection in the hospital or orally at home. We will discuss the protocol that is most appropriate for your individual pet and the potential side effects prior to starting the treatments. Animals tend to tolerate chemotherapy better than people and often does not have any side effects.

  • Cryosurgery is the use of extreme cold produced by liquid nitrogen to destroy abnormal tissue. An advantage of cryosurgery is that it is less invasive than regular surgery, therefore pain, bleeding and other complications may be minimal. It can be less expensive than routine surgery and requires a shorter recovery time.

 What Can I Expect While My Pet Is Being Treated for Cancer?

The majority of patients experience mild side effects including loss of appetite; vomiting; diarrhea; increased hunger, thirst or urination; lethargy, and allergic reactions. Most side effects are easily controlled with medications.

Every patient is unique and we cannot always predict how any drug will affect your pet until it is given. After each treatment we will reevaluate the way your pet is tolerating it by asking for your input. It is important for you to communicate honestly about how your pet is feeling at home so we can make any adjustments as needed.

 How Do I Take Care of My Pet After Chemotherapy?

Lots of food or water after the appointment may cause nausea or vomiting — be sure to give your pet a small meal and smaller amount of water the evening of chemotherapy, and resume normal feeding the next day. Do not encourage strenuous exercise with your pet for the first few days as your pet may be tired after treatment.

A couple things to note:

  • If your pet received an intravenous medication, you may notice a pressure bandage over the injection site. This can be removed within 1 hour of getting home, but no longer than 3 hours or the pet may develop swelling of the paw.

  • If your pet is having trouble overnight or on the weekend, feel free to call our office and our answering machine will give you our paging service number. Alternatively, you may call the veterinarian directly on the cell phone number given.

  • If your pet develops uncontrollable vomiting, bloody and watery diarrhea or any other problems, you may need to seek emergency care immediately. You can always call for direction from the veterinarian first.

  • You may have medications sent home with you. Please make note of the instructions written on the medication. If you have questions, please call us. Some medications may not need to be given continuously or may be given only as needed (i.e., antinausea or antidiarrheal). If your pet takes any other supplements or medications continuously, please discuss these with the veterinarian to make sure they are ok to give safely in addition to the chemotherapy.

    • Medications/Supplements to Avoid:

      • Garlic in any form
      • Grapes or grape seed
      • Supplements claiming to boost immunity (i.e., transfer factor, Essiac T, IP6) as some of these are contraindicated in certain cancers or may be counterproductive when given along with chemotherapy.
      • Vaccines of any kind should also not be given during chemotherapy. Your pet's immune system may not react appropriately or they could become ill more easily after a vaccine is administered.

    • Medications/Supplements to Continue:

      • Thyroid supplement
      • Heart medications
      • Insulin
      • Anti-seizure medications
      • Heartworm preventatives
      • Flea and tick preventions

Our ultimate goal is to maintain your pet's quality of life to the best of our ability while treating its cancer. Please do not hesitate to call us at (847) 299-0135 with any questions or concerns.