Cancer Prevention Series
Cancer is the leading cause of death in older dogs! And a high number of cats die from cancer as well! As a veterinarian I see pets with different types of cancer on a regular bases. Some cancers are benign carrying a very good prognosis and some are malignant and the prognosis depends on what type of cancer it is, how early it is discovered and if it has spread to other places. For me, it is absolutely heartbreaking when pets get diagnosed at a late stage of cancer. Many times it means that our beloved companions have their days numbered…
What causes cancer in pets?
There is not a straight answer to that question. There is definitely a genetic influence, since there are breeds that present with certain types of cancer more often than others. Some examples are Boxers who frequently get brain tumors, Golden Retrievers who are frequently seen because of splenic tumors and lymphosarcoma, Great Danes who are prone to suffer from bone cancer, German Shepherds who typically get splenic tumors… just to name a few… Please, bear with me! This is when it gets complicated! Cancer happens when something damages the foundation of life: the cell’s DNA. This damage dysregulates the cell cycles and is followed by other mutations that allow the cancerous cell to survive and spread.
What causes cell DNA mutations?
– Chance: mutations can occur by accident. The damage could be repaired in the cell, cause the cell’s death, or the damaged (and changed) cell could survive and reproduce initiating cancer.
– Exposure to mutagens: this will increase the odds of an important mutation occurring in a cell. Examples are tobacco smoke, viruses, radiation, ultraviolet light, certain nutrients, hormones, drugs, toxins, inflammation, pollution, chemicals or any other substance that can damage the DNA.
What are common signs that could indicate cancer?
These are just a few of the possible signs that an animal could show if it has cancer. It is important to rule out other causes such as infection too! Take your pet to your veterinarian if you see any of the following signs:
– Swollen lymph nodes
– A growing or changing lump
– Distended abdomen
– Unexplained weight loss
– Unexplained bleeding
– Dry coughing
– Unexplained lameness
– Excessive vomiting
– Straining to urinate
– Oral odor
There is a very important question, that a lot of owners that have gone through the heartbreak of losing a beloved animal to cancer have asked me… Is there something I can do to prevent cancer in pets? In our next post I want to share the answer with you!