One of the most devastating diagnoses for a pet owner is cancer. However, cancer is very common in pets. Just as in people, cancer in pets can be benign or malignant. Many types of cancer can be treated or managed to provide an excellent quality of life.
Early detection is key in the successful treatment of cancer. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if any of the following symptoms appear:
- Abnormal lumps, bumps, or swelling anywhere on the body
- Sores or lesions that won’t heal
- Unexplained weight loss or change in appetite
- Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
- Unusual or bad odor
- Difficulty urinating or defecating
- Persistent lameness
- Drooling or mouth discomfort
If you notice any of these symptoms your veterinarian will likely recommend further diagnostic testing including laboratory tests, biopsies, x-rays, etc.
Similar to human cancer, cancer in pets may be treated with surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy. The ultimate goal of treatment is to keep the pet as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. If the cancer is extremely advanced, palliative or hospice care may be recommended. This means that the focus will be keeping the pet pain-free, hydrated, and nutritionally stable without pursuing more aggressive treatment options.
In all phases of cancer treatment, you are your pet’s advocate. Monitor your pet closely for signs of discomfort or pain and promptly relay this information to your veterinarian. Spend as much time as possible with your pet, provide a comfortable place for your pet to rest, and make it easy for your pet to access its “bathroom”. When it seems that your pet is having more bad days than good ones, you may need to consider euthanasia. Have an honest discussion with your veterinarian about your pet’s prognosis and its level of discomfort. Your veterinarian is there to help guide you through this process.