Cancer Treatment for Dogs
At Park Veterinary Hospital, we understand that your canine companion is not just a pet, but that he or she is a beloved, cherished family member. The mutual bond of love and loyalty between you can make a diagnosis of any form of dog cancer very difficult to hear. Our veterinarians and support staff are empathetic, compassionate and trained to focus on both the emotional and medical aspects of dog cancer.
We are here to guide you both through the diagnosis and treatment process. This includes choosing the best options for effectively, humanely and successfully dealing with canine cancer.
Common Types Of Cancer In Dogs
Unlike many other species of animals, dogs are susceptible to the same types of cancer as humans. Cancer is caused by the uncontrolled growth of cells in the body. These cells can originate in any of the body’s tissues. If not found and arrested in time, cancer can expand and connect with the circulatory or lymph systems, and also can spread and infect other tissues in the body. Canine cancer is the leading cause of death for dogs 10 years of age and older. However, half of all cancer in dogs is treatable if it is arrested in its early stages.
The most common types of cancer in dogs are:
- Hemangiosarcoma: This form of dog cancer is an incurable tumor of cells that line blood vessels, called endothelial cells. Although dogs of any age and breed are susceptible to Hemangiosarcoma, it occurs more commonly in middle aged or elderly dogs. Also certain breeds have a much higher incidence including Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds. For this reason, we may recommend additional screening these breeds after age 5. This form of dog cancer develops slowly and is essentially painless, so clinical signs are usually not evident until the advanced stages when the tumors are resistant to most treatments. Less than 50% of treated dogs survive more than six months, and many die from severe internal bleeding before there is an opportunity to institute treatment.
- Mast Cell Tumors: These are immune cells that are responsible for allergies. Mast cells can be found in all tissues of the body but typically form tumors on the skin in close to 20 percent in the canine population. They range from relatively benign to extremely aggressive. Certain breeds of dog are at an increased risk for the development of this tumor, indicating that genetics might be a cause. Boxers are especially prone to this type of cancer.
- Lymphoma: This form of dog cancer can affect any dog of any breed at any age. Most of the time, it appears as swollen glands (lymph nodes) that can be seen or felt under the neck, in front of the shoulders, or behind the knee. Occasionally, lymphoma can affect lymph nodes that are not visible from outside the body, such as those inside the chest or in the abdomen. This can cause trouble breathing and digestive trouble. Generally this form of dog cancer is considered treatable if arrested in its early stages. Standard Poodles, Golden Retrievers and Australian Shepherds are a few of the breeds with higher incidence of lymphoma.
- Osteosarcoma: This form of dog cancer is the most common type of primary bone cancer in dogs, accounting for up to 85% of tumors that originate in the skeletal system. Although it mostly affects older large or giant breed dogs, it can affect dogs of any size or age. Osteosarcoma occurs in many areas, but it most commonly affects the bones bordering the shoulder, wrist and knee. A major symptom is lameness in the affected leg, or a swelling over the area that seems painful at the site.
- Brain Tumors: Epileptic-like seizures or other extreme behavioral changes are usually the only clinical signs. CAT scanning and MRI is used to determine location, size and severity. Although some oral chemotherapy and radiation therapy can control some inoperable tumors, surgical intervention may be recommended if the tumor is operable.
- Bladder Cancer: Some breeds are more at risk for this form of dog cancer than others. This is a slow developing dog cancer, and symptoms may not show for 3 to 6 months. Urinary obstruction and bleeding are common symptoms.
- Mammary Carcinoma: Non-spayed female dogs are at high risk for developing malignant mammary tumors, but all female dogs regardless of reproductive state remain at risk. Approximately 50% of these tumors are malignant, and complete surgical removal is recommended if the cancer has not metastasized.
- Malignant Histiocytosis: This dog cancer affects larger sport breeds most often. It occurs as localized lesions in the spleen, lymph nodes, lung, bone marrow, skin and subcutis, brain, and periarticular tissue of large appendicular (limb) joints. Histiocytic sarcomas can also occur as multiple lesions in single organs (especially spleen), and rapidly disseminate to involve multiple organs. Unfortunately there is no reported effective therapy for this form of dog cancer.
- Squamous Cell Carcinomas: It is most often found in the mouth and the nail beds of the toes. Early detection and complete surgical removal is the most common treatment. Fewer than 20% of dogs develop metastatic disease. SCC of the tonsil and tongue are quite aggressive and fewer than 10% of dogs survive 1 year or longer despite treatment measures.
- Mouth and Nose Cancer: This is a very common form of dog cancer, more so in the mouth than the nose. Symptoms include a mass on the gums, bleeding, odor, or difficulty eating. Since many swellings are malignant, early, aggressive treatment is essential. Cancer may also develop inside the nose of dogs. Bleeding from the nose, breathing difficulty, or facial swelling are symptoms that may indicate nose cancer.
- Melanoma: This form of dog cancer most commonly occurs in canines with dark skin. Melanomas arise from pigment producing cells called melanocytes, which are responsible for coloring the skin. Melanomas can occur in areas of haired skin, where they usually form small, dark (brown to black) lumps, but can also appear as large, flat, wrinkled masses. Malignant melanoma, which develops in the mouth or in the distal limbs (usually the toenail beds), is an incurable disease. These tumors have very often spread to distant parts of the body by the time they are first noticed, making complete surgical removal impossible.
- Testicular: This form of dog cancer is common in unneutered dogs with retained testes. This form of dog cancer is largely preventable with neutering, and curable with surgery if arrested early in the disease process.
Symptoms And Signs Of Cancer In Dogs
Some signs of cancer in dogs are easy to spot and others are not. Signs of cancer in dogs may vary greatly depending upon a number of factors. However, the following list identifies some of the most common signs of cancer in dogs:
- Lumps and bumps underneath a dog’s skin
- Abnormal odors emanating from the mouth, ears or any other part of the body
- Abnormal discharge from the eyes, mouth, ears or rectum
- Abdominal swelling
- Non-healing wounds or sores
- Sudden and irreversible weight loss
- Change in appetite
- Coughing or difficulty breathing
- Lethargy or depression
- Changes in bathroom habits
- Evidence of pain
Should you witness any signs of cancer in your dog, we strongly recommend making a veterinary appointment immediately.
What You Need To Know About Tumors In Dogs
Tumors in dogs usually appear as fleshy but solid lumps of tissue underneath a dog’s skin and fur. Not all tumors will be outwardly evident. Sometimes you can see evidence of tumors and sometimes they are deep within the body of the dog. However, early detection and treatment are key to preserving your dog’s health and quality of life. Therefore, it is important to periodically inspect your canine companion for any abnormal lumps and keep a semi-annual veterinary appointment schedule.
Owners most commonly find a tumor on their dog while petting or bathing. If you are running your hand over any part of your dog’s body and feel a lump, call to make an appointment with our veterinarian. Most likely, our veterinarian will want to do a needle aspirate to get cells from the tumor to get a diagnosis on the type of tumor. The diagnosis is helpful in determining what if any type of surgery and or follow up cancer care may be necessary. Some tumors in dogs cannot be visualized but can be palpated (felt with touch) by our veterinarian during the exam. For instance, an enlarged spleen may be palpable to our veterinarian but not visible to the owner. You can reference the list of canine cancer symptoms above to get a better understanding of what symptoms to be on the lookout for.
Diagnosing Canine Cancer
Only a veterinarian can accurately diagnose canine cancer. This is why it is extremely important to schedule periodic wellness exams for your canine companion. During these preventive exams, our veterinarian can check your dog for signs of canine cancer. Treating canine cancer before it advances is key to successful recovery.
Treatment Options For Dogs With Cancer
Several factors influence cancer treatment decisions for dogs with cancer, including:
- Age of the dog
- General health of the dog
- Tumor type
- Biological behavior of the tumor
- The Stage of the Cancer
The patient’s overall health status plays a major role in therapy choices for dogs with cancer. This includes evaluating the patient for his or her ability to tolerate cancer treatment. Life expectancy should be taken into consideration as well; for a slow-growing tumor in an older dog, for example, treatment drawbacks may outweigh potential benefits.
Treatments for dogs with cancer are similar to human therapies, which can include:
- Radiation therapy
- Holistic or herbal therapy
There is a lack of consensus as to whether you must choose only one course of treatment, or if multiple treatment options can be combined effectively. Sometimes combining methods works well for dogs with cancer, but that may not always be the case as some treatments may interfere with each other and potentially cause unintended harm. These are important issues to address with the veterinarian at your next appointment.
Cancer Treatment for Cats
Diagnosing And Treating Cancer In Cats
At Park Veterinary Hospital, we understand that feline cancer is a devastating diagnosis. It is natural to feel highly emotional. However, a cat cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a hopeless one. Depending upon how early it is identified and the type of cancer involved, there are certainly options that can lead to very positive outcomes.
Our veterinarians and support staff are well trained, highly empathetic, and understanding of the fact that it is necessary to focus on both the emotional and medical aspects of treating cats with cancer. We are here to work with you to make sure you have a good understanding of your cat’s illness and to help you make decisions that will be best for you and your cat.
How Common Is Cancer In Cats?
Similar to human beings, cancer in cats is a leading cause of death among older felines. Although the specific causes of cancer in cats is currently unknown, many experts consider the feline leukemia virus to be a contributor. Other factors that might increase cat cancer include toxins from the environment, second hand smoke, and environmental toxins.
It is important for you to understand that depending on the specific circumstances of your cat’s condition, feline cancer may be treatable. Medical advancements have provided us with more treatment options for cats with cancer. However, the best way to prevent cancer in cats is to emphasize a healthy lifestyle and adhere to a preventive health care regimen. This includes scheduling regular wellness checkups with your veterinarian.
Spotting Cat Cancer Symptoms
First and foremost, fighting cancer in cats begins with spotting symptoms of the disease while it is still in the early stages. However, spotting symptoms can be tricky because cats are very good at hiding illness. Many forms of cat cancer can be externally noticed. Therefore, periodically inspecting your feline friend is key to spotting cancer symptoms. Some of the more common cat cancer symptoms include:
- Any lump that changes shape or size
- Any sore that does not heal
- Change in bowel or bladder habits
- Difficulty eating or swallowing
- Difficulty urinating or defecating
- Unexplained bleeding or discharge from body
- Vomiting and/or Diarrhea
- Loss of appetite
- Chronic weight loss
- Difficulty breathing or coughing
- Oral odor
Should you spot any symptoms, we urge you to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian immediately. Only then can they perform the necessary diagnostic tests to determine whether or not cancer is present, and to what extent. Cat cancer can be aggressive, and requires immediate intervention. If cancer is diagnosed early, the prognosis for recovery increases significantly.
Types Of Feline Cancer
There are various types of feline cancer. We have compiled a short list here, meant only to serve as an introduction to some of the more common types of feline cancer. If you suspect your cat may have cancer, please schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians.
- Ceruminous Adenomas These small tumors are dark blue, brown or black and are usually confined to the external ear canal.
- Lymphoma- lymphosarcoma (LSA) is common among cats with feline leukemia virus infections. It affects the intestines and other lymphatic tissues in the abdominal area. Symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stool, and constipation. LSA can only be formally diagnosed through medical procedures your veterinarian can administer.
- Myeloproliferative tumors are genetic, and can be passed on through reproduction. It affects bone marrow and blood. Symptoms include weakness, labored breathing, pale mucus membranes and a loss of appetite.
- Melanoma tumors are basal cell tumors. They are not very common in cats, but can occur nonetheless. They usually are found around the neck, head, ears and shoulders in cats. They are mostly benign, and form as solid lumps underneath the skin.
- Squamous cell carcinomas affect areas lacking natural pigmentation, such as the oral cavity, tonsils, lips, nose, eyelids, external ear, limbs, toes and nails. They can also occur in areas under constant irritation or trauma. Diagnosis takes place by performing biopsies.
- Mast cell tumors appear as skin nodules that are ulcerated or pigmented. They can be located anywhere on a cat’s body, and must be biopsied to diagnose.
- Osteosarcoma tumors affect the bones, joints and lungs. These tumors can lead to swelling, lameness, coughing, and breathing difficulties. Diagnostic tools include X-Rays and biopsies.
- Fibrosarcomas tumors occur in the fibrous tissue just beneath a cat’s skin. They can appear as solid, irregular masses underneath the skin. A biopsy is the most accurate diagnostic tool.
Lumps underneath the skin do not always indicate cancerous tumors in cats. It is also possible to find what seems like the symptoms described above without the presence of cancer. Therefore, if your cat is exhibiting any of these symptoms, we recommend making a veterinary appointment immediately, and avoiding the urge to make your own diagnosis. Only your veterinarian can accurately diagnose cat cancer, or another potentially dangerous illness or condition that might be developing in your feline friend.
Cancer Treatment For Cats
The first key to cancer treatment for cats is proper diagnosis. At Park Veterinary Hospital, we begin with a full physical exam. We commonly look at blood work and when necessary employ the use of diagnostic imaging such as radiography or ultrasound. We will also perform needle aspirates, which is a form of biopsy where a needle is inserted into the tumor to collect cells for use in determining tumor type. This is a non-painful and minimally invasive method used for diagnosis. Some tumor types require a core biopsy for diagnosis. In certain cases, cancer specialists may be employed for further diagnostic testing (such as MRI and CT scans) and to be part of our team in treating your cat’s cancer.
Communication with you is important throughout the process of diagnosis and treatment. This includes discussing all possible cancer treatment options for your cat, and the various possible outcomes. Our number one concern is the best interest of your cat. We also evaluate the costs involved, your expectations, possible lifestyle changes, and any possible side effects of treatment to ensure that you are able to make informed decisions.
Treating cancer in cats varies greatly depending on the location and stage of the cat cancer. Traditional cat cancer treatments may involve:
- Oral medication
- Intravenous chemotherapy
- Radiation therapy
- Surgical reduction or removal of the tumor
- Ancillary pain management
Complementary treatments may include acupuncture, immunotherapy or nutritional therapy.
Fortunately, for all the unknowns where cat cancer is concerned, we do know more about cancer in cats now than we ever have before and because of this, you now have more options than ever when pursuing cat cancer treatment.
What To Do If You Suspect Your Cat Has Cancer
If you suspect cat cancer, whether finding a lump or noticing behavioral changes, please contact us immediately to schedule an appointment. Our veterinarians and veterinary support staff will provide you and your feline friend with compassionate, comprehensive care and support services. Although cat cancer can be frightening and painful, we are here to help ease your cat’s pain and suffering and eliminate the cancer through the best veterinary care available.