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Highlights from Oncology & Our Pets: How Cancer Affects Our Pets & Why Life with Cancer Can Be Quality Life by Dr. Kathy L. Mitchener

Why Consider Treating Cancer?

In the eighties, an old dog was considered a senior at 7-9 years, while an old cat was a senior at 9-10 years. Now, our pets are living longer, which strengthens the bond between humans and pets. The goal of treating cancer is to preserve that bond.

#1 Natural Cause of Death

Cancer is reported by pet owners as the number one natural cause of death. Fortunately, it is also the most curable of all chronic diseases.

However, cancer is different because we deal with it emotionally different. Our past experien

ces with cancer in humans often color our experiences with cancer in our pets. Cancer is clients’ number one health concern. Cancer is a physical disease, and this causes pet owners to be more fearful of it than other diseases.

What Causes Cancer?

Today, about 50% of all dogs and cats will develop cancer. This is due to a variety of reasons. Dogs and cats are living much longer than previous decades. They are receiving more exams in their lifetimes, so illnesses like cancer are being diagnosed more frequently. Even the diagnostics vets use has greatly improved.

Genetics is a significant factor. Breeds like Golden Retrievers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and Boxers are all more likely to develop cancer.

The environment also plays a role. Things like secondhand smoke, sun exposure, and pesticides all contribute to an increased likelihood of cancer. Dogs and cats live in the environment differently than humans do. When they become exposed to toxic chemicals, they often ingest them from licking their paws or inhale them from sniffing the grass, etc.

How to Treat Cancer

In order to diagnose cancer early, it’s best to schedule more checkups with your veterinarian. Pay attention to any changes in behavior at home as well. If you notice a lump, bump, limp, cough or gag, it’s best to schedule an appointment for your pet to be examined. Alternatively, even if your pet has no symptoms, he or she could have cancer, so trust your intuition. If you feel something is off, don’t dismiss it.

Invest in your dog or cat’s nutrition. Feeding a healthy, nutritious diet can help prevent illnesses. For dogs and cats with cancer, the right nutrition can contribute to quality of life, enhanced survival, enhanced remission, and decreased side effects. Diets that are especially beneficial for pets with cancer are high in Omega 3 fatty acids and low in carbohydrates with moderate protein. Some of the recommended diets for dogs and cats with cancer include grain free, The Honest Kitchen, and home cooked (based on strict guidelines outlined on balanceit.com).

Life with Cancer Must Be Quality Life

The “cancer paradigm is changing from terminal disease to chronic disease.” Due to advancements in chemo-therapies and other therapies, dogs and cats with cancer can have quality lives, and that is always worth fighting for.

By thinking outside the box and combining approaches to treating cancer, you can achieve quality of life for your pet. Because there are different types of cancer, there should be different approaches to dealing with the specific type. Over the past decade, new treatment strategies have contributed to enhanced survival for pets with cancer. Increased time with our four-legged best friends is considered a success. There are thousands of dogs and cats who’re undergoing cancer treatment or have in the past and are living full, pain-free lives.

Dr. Mitchener’s Responses to Unanswered Questions from Class

What is your stance on raw diets for cancer, especially the Answers diet that offers a fermented straight diet with virtually no carbohydrates?

They are low carb. However, we don’t know that the fermentation process makes them any safer. Until there’s more data, I’d be stretched to tell you that’s the direction to go. If you want to feed that, find it from a reputable source, and then talk with your veterinarian about why you want to feed that.

What is your opinion of using goat’s milk to reduce cancerous tumors?

There’s no data and scientific work to show that goat’s milk cures or treats cancer. What does goat’s milk have in it? It’s got a lot of good nutritional stuff in it, that when part of a balanced nutritional program can help support the body and make the body better capable of managing the cancer that’s present.

My Golden Retriever has a black spot behind his lower teeth that he didn’t have before. Should I get this checked out?

Yes, I would absolutely get that checked.

We’ve had two Standard Poodles who died of tumors on the spleen or liver. They both collapsed, and that was the only symptom. One was around 11 and the other was 13 years old. What could we have done, and would these tumors have been operably removed in an earlier stage?

Hindsight is 2020. We all know that. If I would do one thing, in large breed dogs especially, once they are 5 to 6 years of age, start doing annual diagnostic profiles looking at chest films, abdominal films and a scanning abdominal ultrasound because you might have picked that up earlier. A year is a long time though for a dog, so there’s a possibility you may not have. At least going forward, look at starting diagnostic testing earlier or running bloodwork like the cancer screening profile to see if there’s an index of suspicion. The truth is that hemangioma sarcoma is very tough to diagnose early on. It’s a silent killer and a very tough disease.

Raw and fermented goat’s milk contains CLA, and by adding it to my dog’s diet she is now cancer free! Have you heard of this?

Goat’s milk and fermented products are all the rage and have been for some time. I had a client a number of years ago believing that goat’s milk cures cancer. I’m not so sure that your dog had cancer and now doesn’t, and that it’s related to goat’s milk. If these products actually cured cancer, I’d be selling them. I think there are probably other factors. Has CLA been used to treat cancer in the dog? Absolutely. It’s part of a nutritional program that’s used primarily in breast cancer, so there’s probably a link there. But do I think that’s connected directly to the cure of cancer? Probably not, there are probably other factors or a misdiagnosis as well.

Is it lawn pesticides or herbicides that could be detrimental? My dog was diagnosed with TCC, or possibly another type of bladder cancer, and I’m very concerned we could’ve somehow caused her fate.

One of the things that cancer does to us is that it wears on us and makes us angry and feel guilty. What could I have done to have prevented that? Did I do something that could have caused that? And the reality is that we know there are links between herbicides, pesticides and various forms of cancer. As I spoke about earlier, transitional cell carcinoma in the corn belt in the Midwest is very prevalent in women and especially in Scottie dogs. Do I know that the chemicals you sprayed on your lawn caused the cancer? There’s no way we can tell you that for sure. However, if you can avoid using pesticides and herbicides in your yard I would. The problem you run in to is that your neighbors might be using those chemicals while you’re not. I think we’ll learn a lot more about chemicals and we’ll trend more towards using natural options.

Are you familiar with the dog magazines Dogs Naturally and Whole Dog Journal? Which one do you feel provides more accurate information when it comes to nutrition and raw diets?

I do subscribe to and read Whole Dog Journal. In any magazine, there are things that I go along with and things I don’t. The best thing is to pick the one you want to subscribe to. Then, select an article of interest and take it to your veterinarian to discuss and ask questions. It helps veterinarians learn and grow.

Do you feel the chemicals or ingredients used to make toys, supplies, food or treats cause cancer?

I don’t know that we have any data to support that, but we must be cautious about what we allow our dogs and cats to chew on and what’s in those products.

If my dog had cancer, what specific fruits or veggies should I add to my dog’s diet?

Whatever your dog will eat! Broccoli and cauliflower are great but stay away from those vegetables that are high in carbohydrates like corn and carrots. Sweet potatoes are great for a low glycemic index and a slow release of carbs. Blueberries are great as well. Bananas and apples are higher in sugar. If you go to the balanceit.com website, it will help you select for a low carb diet that’s higher in fat and protein and it’ll work with you on what amounts of fruits and vegetables are best.

Speaking of pet insurance, do you have a recommendation on a company?

It’s difficult to make a recommendation. Maybe with a bottle of wine I could talk to you about it personally! The cool thing about pet insurance is that it’s much better than it’s been even 5 or 10 years ago. I find that my clients who have pet insurance use it, and it takes the financial worry out of diagnosing and treating their pets’ diseases. I’m a huge advocate for it.

I adopted a 5-year-old Frenchie last year. When do I need to start worrying about cancer and what type is she susceptible to?

Cancer is not a prominent thing in the Frenchie breed. They’ve got lots of other problems like back issues and loss of spinal function. But the bottom line is that you shouldn’t be worried about it. I want you to have a conversation about how to prevent it with your veterinarian and work with them to develop a long-term treatment strategy. If you’re still concerned, have your vet run the Vitamin D, TK1 and C reactive protein profile and see if there’s an index of suspicion for her. Don’t worry. Take action.

My 11-year-old dog is in late stage nasal cancer and hasn’t eaten in 4 days. What do you recommend?

If your dog hasn’t eaten, he’s probably clinically dehydrated, so you’ll need to get to your veterinarian. Find out why he’s not eating. Is it because he can’t smell, does he not feel good, does he have some kidney impairment, is there a drug he’s taking that’s causing him not to eat? Go to your regular veterinarian and say he hasn’t eaten in a significant number of days and we need to get some nutrition in him or we’re going to lose him. If that’s the case, there are additional things you can do for nasal carcinoma to help control the symptoms.

My 9-year-old Lab has been diagnosed with spindle cell tumor and surgery was successful in removing it with clean borders. We are being told no other follow up is needed. Is this a standard course of treatment?

There’s a lot of unanswered questions there. Spindle cell tumor is a soft tissue sarcoma. It depends upon location, margins, grade, and how clean were the margins. Were they 1 mm margins or were they 2 cm margins? So there’s a lot of unanswered questions. My recommendation with any dog with cancer, if you are concerned and you need more information, either go back to your veterinarian or contact a specialist. There are two of us in town, and either one would be happy to discuss that with you. We would need the histopath and to see the dog to make a judgement as to what needs to be done next.

Why is weight loss a symptom of cancer even when the dog is eating well or eating more?

In the early stages of cancer cachexia, the cancer is altering the metabolism so it can survive and thrive while the body starves. If we allow that to progress unchecked for months or years, that cancer patient will ultimately start to lose weight and look anorexic. In that situation, it’s probably partially the cancer cachexia. In addition, depending upon where the cancer is affecting the patient (in a dog that’s eating well it’s probably not affecting the GI tract) it can affect things like absorption depending on the location.

How do you fell about homemade pet food diets in the treatment or prevention of cancer, and do you have any websites or book recommendations or certain recipes you like?

I’ll refer you to the website called balanceit.com developed by UC Davis by a team of veterinary board of nutritionists. It gives you the options to select what you want to feed your dog and then it shows you how to balance it so that your dog is fed a balanced, nutritious diet.

I’ve read that chicken may have issues for a dog to eat, raw chicken as part of a raw diet. Does anyone know if red meat is more likely to cause cancer than any other meat dogs or other animals may eat?

The truth is that we don’t know the answer. We do know that raw chicken, raw beef, or any other raw meat has the potential to have salmonella or enteropathogenic E. coli present in it as contaminants, and those are a problem. The American Veterinary Medical Association has taken a strong stand against the use of raw diet, especially those developed at home without any nutritional guidance.

What is the concern with The Honest Kitchen?

I believe it’s a dehydrated raw food, and because The Honest Kitchen is unable to provide information on what temperature they use during the dehydration process, we aren’t sure if pathogens are still present in their food.

Information on The Honest Kitchen’s dehydration process:

The Honest Kitchen’s dehydrated formulas are actually slow cooked and then dehydrated. It’s a cooked food so it’s very safe, and it’s made in a facility that also makes human foods. Their safety is bar none. Click on the links to learn more about THK’s safety procedures!

https://www.thehonestkitchen.com/the-honest-differences

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-7iJgAKPl-8E/Xuk_ynFuEgI/AAAAAAAADoU/fWdslcnSJfse0HOfRPj65CoLugZAlxXWgCK8BGAsYHg/s0/2020-06-16.png

 

vet holding a dog and a cat

The Importance of Multiple Veterinary Opinions

I have recently had multiple health scares with my oldest dog, Skeeter, who is 11 years old. This has all piled on at once, and my husband and I are currently trying to work through all of the information we have received to give him the best treatment possible. We have been to multiple veterinarians to try to figure out what is going on with our sweet old man!

First Indications

About 6 weeks ago, I suddenly noticed Skeeter’s front legs severely shaking when he stood up after lying in the backyard for a little while. I saw it, registered it and thought it was strange, but thought that maybe it was a fluke or one-time thing. But it wasn’t. After I saw his legs shake the first time, I began to see his front legs either tremble, buckle or splay out about two to three times each day. Skeeter then proceeds to go on about his normal life like nothing has happened, and like he is feeling just fine. He has always been a stoic dog. The sudden onset of this has worried me and I thought there was probably something going on with him skeletally or neurologically. The front leg weakness seems to happen most often when he has been lying down and is in the process of getting up, but sometimes it happens when he’s just walking around the house. I made an appointment at Memphis Veterinary Specialists (or MVS) and got on Dr. Atwood’s schedule.

Visit with Dr. Atwood at Memphis Veterinary Specialists

During this first scheduled appointment, a veterinary technician took notes on what I had noticed with Skeeter’s legs and then he was taken into a back room away from me and given a physical exam by Dr. Atwood. In hindsight, I wish that I had asked to be present for Skeeter’s exam. Once the exam was finished, Dr. Atwood told me that he could not find any cause for Skeeter’s legs to buckle, splay or shake, but that he did find a lump in his gum and a small mass in his right anal sac. Dr. Atwood also ran bloodwork, which came back within normal limits. This is a good sign as far as possible malignancy for the two lumps found goes, but he recommended surgery to remove the mass in the anal sac immediately anyway. Dr. Atwood said that trying to biopsy the very small mass in a hard to get to place would be very likely to fail and could bring back false negative results. He seemed much less concerned about the mass in Skeeter’s mouth.

I found this news very upsetting, of course, and spoke to my husband about everything that night. We decided that a second opinion was in order for the leg trembling, since we did not have an answer for that yet. Dr. Atwood had reported that he did not get a pain response from Skeeter regarding his legs when he did the physical exam, but I was not present for this! I feel that I would definitely be able to read Skeeter better than someone who had just met him for the first time, even if he is a doctor. We thought that it wouldn’t hurt to ask another doctor about the two lumps found, either, and see if there were any recommendations besides immediate surgery, considering there are no other signs of cancer.

We scheduled an appointment with Dr. Mitchener at Angel Care Cancer Clinic for Animals in Bartlett. Dr. Mitchener, besides being a veterinary oncologist, also performs acupuncture, rehab and physical therapy. She has a focus on Eastern medicine, which many people call “alternative medicine”, but there is definite scientific evidence to back it up. Read about the training Dr. Mitchener gave to Hollywood Feed employees here, and her second office location in East Memphis. Also offered at the Bartlett location, but under the name Shelby Center Hospital for Animals, are chiropractic treatments, which I thought may be helpful for Skeeter’s legs if the shaking is due to a skeletal issue.

Raw Goat’s Milk Fast

 

While waiting for our appointment date, my husband and I started Skeeter on an Answers Raw Goat’s Milk fast. We began feeding him 5 cups of Answer’s Raw Goat’s Milk a day and nothing else, as recommended by Jacqueline with Answers Pet Food. Read more about the benefits of a raw milk fast here. We have also been monitoring his weight to make sure he does not start to lose any while on this fast, and he has been within a pound of his original weight of 56 lbs since the fast began. We decided to try the fast for a month to clean out his system. This means no kibble, no canned food, no treats, no rawhides, and no human food! It has been a little hard on Skeeter, but he seems to have gotten used to it. His fast lasted through the month of September.

The day before our appointment with Dr. Mitchener, she had a family emergency and had to leave town. This was completely understandable, but we had been so concerned about Skeeter at this point, that we didn’t want to wait and we weren’t sure when Dr. Mitchener would be back in town. We wanted Dr. Mitchener’s oncological opinion and couldn’t find another veterinary oncologist in Memphis (besides at MVS where we had already been), so that was too bad. However, at this time, Skeeter’s leg issue was really the more pressing problem for us, and we decided to focus on this. I called Shelby Center to see if Skeeter could get a chiropractic consultation, but they said it would be two weeks! These are the only veterinary chiropractic services available in Memphis.

Visit with Dr. Smith at Natchez Trace Veterinary Services

My husband googled other options and found Dr. Mark Smith with Natchez Trace Veterinary Services in Nashville. They were able to give us an appointment the very next day, so we cleared our schedules and made the trip to Nashville. What a wonderful clinic! We arrived an hour and a half early and they started our appointment right away. Dr. Smith took an x-ray, which was not done at MVS by Dr. Atwood. He suggested that Skeeter is having problems with his spine, although he did not see anything except a possible arthritic spot in his neck on the x-ray, and he also did not get a pain response from Skeeter during the physical exam he did right in front of me. I did see a few small twinges by Skeeter, but this could have just been due to the weirdness of the exam itself, so I was unsure.

Dr. Smith gave Skeeter a chiropractic adjustment and did an acupuncture treatment during our appointment. He also examined the two lumps that Dr. Atwood found and agreed that the one in the anal sac was too difficult to biopsy. He agreed that it should be surgically removed. Dr. Smith spent a lot of time with Skeeter, my husband and myself, and he answered all of our questions thoroughly.

When we left Nashville and started the drive back to Memphis, I had mixed feelings. I admit that I feel a little skeptical about both acupuncture and chiropractic care, but I was willing to give them a shot if they may help my sweet Skeeter. To my delight, Skeeter did not display any of the symptoms I had seen with his front legs for several days after his appointment! But then he did slowly start to have the same shaking and splaying out occur, though with less frequency than before.

Visit with Dr. Mitchener at Angel Care

 

When Dr. Mitchener was back in town and able to see Skeeter a few days later, she looked at the x-rays from Dr. Smith with Natchez Trace and then took more of her own. She said that she definitely sees signs of arthritis in Skeeter’s neck and back, which is probably what is contributing to his leg issue. She also suspected that arthritis or inflammation in Skeeter’s back legs may be the cause of his front leg weakness and trembling due to overcompensation by the front legs. She said she did see a slight pain response from Skeeter, which felt right to me. Dr. Mitchener recommended continuing to treat Skeeter with acupuncture once a week. It felt good to have some kind of answer to Skeeter’s leg problem, and I was glad that it was not related to cancer or a neurological issue.

Dr. Mitchener also took a scraping from the lump in Skeeter’s mouth, and said there were no signs for alarm, though we will continue to get this rechecked over time. She examined the mass in his anal sac, which Skeeter was getting pretty tired of at this point. She agreed with the previous two doctors, that it would be too difficult to biopsy and it should be removed surgically.

Ongoing Treatment

According to Skeeter’s bloodwork, there is no reason to believe the mass in his anal sac is malignant at this point-and it could have been there for any number of years without changing in size. We wonder if there are any other options besides putting an 11-year-old dog through surgery for something we are not sure is even dangerous! This is a concern with which we are currently grappling. And two weeks ago when I took Skeeter in for his second acupuncture appointment-the first with Dr. Mitchener-the mass in his anal sac had not yet changed in size.

As far as Skeeter’s legs go, they are still having problems, though still not as frequently as before. We have begun weekly acupuncture appointments at this time. Dr. Mitchener says that Skeeter will probably need ongoing treatment for this arthritis affecting his legs and spine. She described it like taking a medication daily: when the effectiveness of the medication wears off, you have to take another pill. Acupuncture works the same way. I’m willing to continue this treatment as long as it continues to help.

Conclusions

I am very glad that I took Skeeter in to see Dr. Atwood at MVS, who did such a thorough physical exam that he found two masses of which I was previously unaware. Thank goodness! Now we know that we should be monitoring these things, having them checked to see if they have changed in size, and having bloodwork run regularly to see if there is any cause for concern about malignancy.

I am also very glad that I did not stop at seeing Dr. Atwood, and went on the see Dr. Smith and Dr. Mitchener, as well as consult with Jacqueline from Answers Pet Food. I feel like I have gained so much information from so many well-educated and intelligent professionals! More was learned with every veterinary visit Skeeter went to, and each doctor was able to build on the information that the previous doctor had found.

This is why multiple opinions, as well as doing our own research, is so very important for our pets-just like it is important for humans!

dog getting a massage

What Should I Know about Acupuncture and Rehabilitative Care?

Last week, Hollywood Feed employees had the chance to learn about acupuncture and rehabilitative therapy from Dr. Kathy Mitchener, who is with the new facility Angel Care. Angel Care provides holistic and natural healing for pets and they are located at 1017 Oakhaven, Memphis, TN 38119. The phone number is 901-385-9172. They have some exciting treatments to check out!

Acupuncture

A wonderful service that Angel Care offers is acupuncture! Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years. This is not some new trend that started recently. Part of the mystery surrounding acupuncture and it’s effectiveness is that it comes from ancient China, and when Western doctors are exposed to treatments they don’t understand, they tend to dismiss them despite the supporting evidence.

How It Works

The way acupuncture works is that a pin (or multiple pins) is stuck into a specific part of your body to stimulate specific nerves. The nerves receive this stimulation, and go running to the spinal cord with this message, and then the spinal cord carries the message to the brain. The brain then analyzes what is happening and sends a signal back out telling the body to decrease pain in the areas in question. This is called neuromodulation.

Neuromodulation is a way to modulate pain, but not a cure for the disease causing the pain. Acupuncture works in a way similar to aspirin, which helps to lessen pain as well. The main difference is that aspirin can have side effects while acupuncture has none. Acupuncture, in combination with exercise and diet changes for your pet, can be really great for maintenance of pain and extending your pet’s quality of life without lots of medications and their side effects. There are no medical risks involved with acupuncture if it is used hygienically, but it may help stimulate labor, so you may not want to use it on a pregnant dog or cat (or human!!).

Acupuncture Can Be Used to Treat

  • Allergies
  • Anxiety/aggression (if caused by underlying pain issue)
  • Arthritis
  • Compensatory pain
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Hot spots/other self trauma
  • Immune system failure
  • Intestinal issues
  • Nerve paralysis
  • Nervous system pain
  • Organ failure
  • Pain from ANY other cause
  • Seizures
  • Sleeplessness
  • Stroke
  • Weakness
  • Many other problems

Dr. Mitchener said that about 15% of dogs don’t respond to acupuncture in the first few sessions, but given more time there is a chance they will be responsive. She has also been able to use acupuncture on cats with long, soothing sessions to calm down the cat’s nerves!

Rehab Services

Another service offered by Dr. Mitchener at Angel Care is rehabilitation. Rehab can be used alone or in combination with other treatments to help dogs lose weight, to help train agility dogs, and to help with difficulty walking and running. Some of the physical rehabilitation services offered include manual therapy, stretching, movement, balance, conditioning, and core strength. Dogs get to “play” with wobbly toys and blow up toys and work through obstacle courses to help with their rehab. Dr. Mitchener and her team use positive reinforcement through treats and praise to get your dog to do the hard work!

An exciting part of the rehabilitation services offered is Angel Care’s underwater treadmill! Dogs have a lot of fun using this, and the water helps to take the dog’s weight off of his joints so he can move around much more easily and start to use body parts that he has not been working as much due to pain. And dogs really seem to love it!!

Underwater Treadmills Can Help With

  • Arthritis
  • Conditioning
  • Degenerative Myelopathy
  • Paralysis
  • Strengthening
  • Surgical recovery

Other Services Available

  • Laser therapy
  • Massage
  • Herbal and nutritional treatment

Another great feature of Angel Care is that the clinic offers a calm and quiet space in which they will treat your pet. Dr. Mitchener said that their appointments take longer than at other facilities, simply because they want to try to make the dog feel comfortable in his surroundings before jumping right in with treatment. Most sessions also take place right down on the ground where your dog is most at ease.

Black Great Dane dog lying on white background

What Do I Need to Know about Cancer and Pets?

Cancer affects us all. We can each name someone we know who has battled cancer, and this is no different for our pets. Cancer is a terrible, pervasive disease.

Both dogs and cats are susceptible to cancer, but it occurs about twice as often in dogs than it does in cats. Diagnosis in cats can be more difficult, though, due to their ability to hide warning signs. This means that cancer in cats is usually detected later than in dogs, when it can be more difficult to treat. There are also certain dog breeds that can be more likely to have an inherited susceptibility to cancer, such as Boxers, Boston Terriers, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, and Saint Bernards.

November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month, and now is the time for you to become informed about the causes of cancer, the warning signs, and ways you can help prevent cancer in your pets.

So, What Is Cancer and What Causes It?

Cancer is caused when your cells grow uncontrollably, and spread to surrounding areas of your body. Cancer can present as a localized tumor and remain in one area of your body, or it can spread throughout the body. Read more about cancer and join a walk in your area to promote education and cancer research by visiting Puppy Up! Foundation here.

Cancer can have several different causes:

Naturally Occurring Chemicals.

Plants naturally produce chemicals they use to fight off predators, and they can affect you or your pet negatively as well, by causing mutations in DNA.

Man-Made Chemicals.

Pesticides, herbicides, chemical food additives and preservatives, cleaning products, and second-hand smoke are a few examples of man-made chemicals. Read about natural and artificial preservatives in pet food here.

Irradiation (Exposure to the Sun).

Skin cancer is a big worry for people, but is not as common in household pets, although white or partially white animals with low pigmentation are at a higher risk.

Inherited Susceptibility.

An abnormal gene can be inherited from a parent, and that may make a pet or person more likely to develop cancer at some point in the future, but will not automatically mean cancer will develop.

Vaccinations.

There is evidence that some healthy dogs have developed cancer and other health issues as a result of vaccinations, and dogs with cancer should not receive vaccinations as they can negatively affect the immune system. Fibrosarcoma, or soft tissue sarcoma, is a type of cancer associated with injections and vaccinations (also called injection-site sarcoma). Read more about vaccinations and cancer here. If you’re wondering whether to vaccinate, you can read more here.

Cancer Affects Us All

  • 4-8 million dogs are touched by cancer each year
  • 1 in 4 dogs and cats will be diagnosed with cancer
  • Cancer is the number one killer of dogs over 2 years old
  • It accounts for 50% of all disease-related pet deaths
  • Cancer is the number one disease killer of children
  • 16,000 companion animals are diagnosed with cancer daily
  • 50% of dogs over the age of 10 will be diagnosed with cancer
  • 46,000 people are diagnosed with cancer daily
  • 46 children are diagnosed with cancer daily
  • One out of 330 people will develop cancer before the age of 20

For What Signs Should I Watch?

Here are ten early warning signs, or the “Ten L’s” of canine cancer of which you need to be aware:

  • Lumps
  • Lesions
  • Lameness
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of Weight
  • Loud Odor
  • Loss of Normal Body Functions
  • Loss of Blood or Bloody Discharge
  • Labored Breathing

If you see these signs in your pet without an explanation-especially if you see more than one of the Ten L’s-then you need to get in to see your vet for an examination.

Treatment Options are Available

If your pet does get the dreaded diagnosis, there are treatment options available to him:

Surgery.

This is a good option if the cancer is localized and has not spread to other areas of the body, or if it is not in a dangerous place for surgery to be performed.

Chemotherapy.

This puts toxic chemicals in the body that will kill cancer cells-however it will kill normal cells as well, thus making people and pets very sick as they go through the process.

Radiation Treatment.

This involves a beam of radiation being directed at cancerous cells while avoiding normal cells. This works only when the cancer is localized to one area.

Immunotherapy.

Stimulating the immune system to fight off cancer on its own by attacking cancer cells.

A Combination of Treatments.

Many people choose to combine some of the above treatments depending on their pet’s situation.

No Treatment.

Some pet owners will choose not to treat their pet’s cancer depending on budgetary restrictions and prognosis. In these cases pain relief will be the main goal of treatment, and the pet’s continued quality of life should be considered.
If your pet receives a cancer diagnosis and treatment recommendation from your vet, then I recommend that you seek a second opinion, and see if there is a veterinary oncologist near you. Different veterinarians have different opinions on the best course of treatment, and you owe it to your pet to hear all of the options available! Read more about the importance of multiple veterinary opinions and about Dr. Mitchener, a veterinary oncologist in Memphis, here.

What Can I Do to Prevent Cancer?

The quality of life you provide for your pet can work with, or work against, whatever genes he was dealt! Make sure you do your part to prevent cancer:

  • Use green cleaning products and don’t expose your pet, or yourself, for that matter, to harsh chemicals.
  • Feed your dogs and cats good quality food. READ THE LABEL!!! Cheap grocery store brands contain chemical additives and preservatives and they are harmful to your pet, just like eating only processed foods, chips and ice cream every day would be harmful to you.
  • Some dogs can benefit from sunscreen, especially if they are white, short-haired, and spend a lot of time outdoors.
  • Make sure to neuter/spay you pet at 6 months! This will prevent the possibility of testicular cancer in males, and greatly reduce the instances of breast cancer in females. Read more about the importance of spaying and neutering your pets here.
  • Do your research about vaccinations and see if you think the pros outweigh the cons. There are vaccines that are approved to last 7 years, instead of going to the vet every single year.

  • Watching your dog’s weight and getting plenty of exercise together will also be helpful. People who have a positive outlook and are able to move around and enjoy their lives have been shown to do much better at holding disease at bay, so why wouldn’t this be true for your dog?

If you do these things, you will at least be one step ahead of the game! Please share your stories about your pets and cancer in the comment section below.