Pet Cancer Awareness Month: What Owners Need To Know

With the month of May in full swing, so is Pet Cancer Awareness Month. All pets, regardless of size and breed, are at risk for developing cancer. However, there are certain breeds of dogs that have higher instances of the disease than others.

Certain breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, and German shepherds are considered at-risk breeds and have a higher risk of getting cancer. According to the Veterinary Cancer Society, these breeds can have up to a 70-80 percent chance of getting cancer in their lifetime.

Of course, older dogs are more likely to develop diseases such as cancer than younger dogs. “Just like in people, however, the earlier that cancer is detected, the greater chance there will be of achieving remission,” said Jaci Christensen, oncology veterinary technician at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

One goal of Pet Cancer Awareness Month is to inform pet owners of symptoms to look for in their pet. The Veterinary Cancer Society suggests checking your pet regularly for signs such as swollen lymph nodes, sudden weight loss, enlarged lumps, vomiting, diarrhea, and lameness. If your pet displays any of these warning signs, consult with your veterinarian as soon as you can.

If your veterinarian does find cancer, there are various treatment options for most types of the disease. Once you know which type you're fighting, the various treatment options can then be discussed with your veterinarian.

“Cancer treatment in dogs is similar to that of humans, including treatment options such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery,” said Christensen. “However, surprisingly, chemotherapy’s side effects tend to be less severe in our pets than in humans.”

TomoTherapy, a state-of-the-art radiation therapy system, is another treatment that is available. This precise image-guided radiation therapy allows veterinarians to pinpoint a tumor’s size, shape, and location seconds before radiation therapy begins.

Veterinarians stress that wellness checks every year or six months are key to cancer prevention. To ensure the cancer is detected in time, it is urged that pet owners take their pets to the veterinarian for blood work and biopsies if cancer is suspected.

Learning that your beloved pet has cancer is never easy, but discovering it early on ensures a better chance of survival and an increased quality of life. Although May is Pet Cancer Awareness month, spread the awareness of cancer’s prevalence amongst our four-legged friends all throughout the year, and be sure to check for signs both at home and during your regular visits to the veterinarian.

Courtesy of Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.

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