Parker County Today October 2016 - Page 24

our advice: ASK DR. CATE Vet Rap by Dr. Ryan Cate Dogs and Cancer — Advise for Caring for Your Furry Friends OCTOBER 2016 PA R K E R C O U N T Y T O D AY Question: Dear Dr. Cate, Growing up, I never heard of anyone’s pets dying of cancer. But now I hear about it often. Recently, I lost my beloved Schnauzer to cancer, weeks later my cat was diagnosed with the same disease. He couldn’t be saved. A few months later, my daughter lost her German shepherd to cancer.  Is it my imagination or is cancer on the rise in dogs and why? What can we do to protect our pets? — D.B., Aledo Answer: With healthcare improvements for pets, many of them are living longer, healthier lives. However, with the longer life span many are facing a diagnosis of cancer as they age. In fact, half of all dogs over the age of 10 will develop some type of cancer in their lifetime. It’s also the leading natural cause of death in our furry friends. While it seems that more pets have cancer, it’s much like people, with improved healthcare and a larger awareness, cancer is more often diagnosed in our pets. The warning signs for pets are also much like the ones we see for humans. The National Canine Cancer Foundation says there are 10 warning signs that your dog might have cancer. First is abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow, sores that don’t heal or unusual weight loss. It’s also a concern if your dog loses its appetite, or has difficulty eating or swallowing. Be on the lookout for bleeding or discharge from any body opening or any offensive odor. Watch for changes in exercise or a loss of stamina as well as persistent lameness or stiffness. Also notice any difficulty your dog may have in breathing, urinating or defecating. The biggest thing that most people notice is a lump or bump. They typically say they are going to watch it. Rapid increases in the size or shape of the mass is a concern. Animal cancer symptoms are very vague and the only way to make sure is to do diagnostic testing. As an owner you have to allow your vet to do some diagnostic testing, which can be costly to determine what the mass is. Diagnostic tests can include CT scans, MRIs, CDCs, ultra- 22 sounds, diagnostic complete blood counts, urinalysis, just to name a few. Additional testing is done when masses are removed or biopsied. It’s important to do the diagnostic steps when you have masses. You have to diagnose the tumor and spend time with your veterinarian to determine what treatments are available. Determine what are your goals for treatment? Do you even want to go through the chemotherapy treatment? For all the success we have with cancer, there are also some that aren’t successful. Although some dogs who have been diagnosed with cancer can seem fine, the earlier a treatment is begun the better the chance of your dog’s long-term survival. As the tumors grow and spread, the treatment becomes more difficult, expensive and complicated. A biopsy may be necessary even after the cancer diagnosis. Since every tumor is different, a biopsy will help give the care team important information about the tumor and a plan for how to treat it. The most common tumors that we see are skin associated, mammary tumors, oral melanomas and lymphoid type tumors. Cancer treatments in pets are as varied as the number and variety of cancers that pets can have. Aggressive tumors would have a very different treatment and outcome from benign or slow-growing masses. The treatment will differ from pet to pet, but most will focus on the pet’s quality of life and the ability to increase the time period for the dog with its owner. The most important thing is to get your dog checked out and develop a treatment plan. If you decide to go through with oncology you then set up a treatment plan to determine whether it’s surgery, medical oncology or radiation oncology that will help your pet. Each one of these will have a different outcome. They can tell you when you do the diagnostics what the grade is for the tumor and that will help to determine what the median survival time is, and what the cost of the treatment will be. Many canine cancers can be cured with a combination of treatments. If your dog is not one of those who can expect a cure, your veterinarian can be helpful with pain management assistance. Because there are so many different kinds of cancers and many different animals that are affected, the cost