Do pets get cancer?

If you’ve lived with pets for a long time, you’ve probably noticed many human characteristics. That can be a good thing. Those human traits allow pets to become your beloved companions. It can also be a bad thing, especially when your cat or dog suffers from what you might consider a “people” illness such as cancer.

Neoplasia or Cancer?

Neoplasia occurs when there’s an overgrowth of cells in your pet’s body. This occurs in both cats and dogs. As the American Veterinary Medical Association explains, the most common neoplasia locations vary among cats and dogs, breeds, and age groups.

  • Skin, common in older dogs
  • Mammary glands, common in un-spayed female dogs, cats have a higher malignancy rate
  • Head and neck, less common in cats
  • Lymph nodes, common in cats and dogs
  • Testicles, rare in cats common in dogs
  • Bone, common in dogs that are large breed or over 7 years old

Neoplasia isn’t always cancer but it can be. When a tissue overgrowth causes a mass or a tumor, it isn’t considered cancer unless it’s malignant.

As with human patients, your veterinarian must conduct a biopsy to determine if your pet’s neoplasia is malignant. The vet takes a tissue sample and uses a microscope to examine it. There’s always a chance that a neoplasia overgrowth will turn out to be benign.

Leukemia is a form of cancer that occurs when malignant lymphocytes or lymphoblasts enter an animal’s bloodstream. This can occur in both cats and dogs.

When your pet gets cancer

Cancer is a disheartening diagnosis in both people and pets. It acts in similar ways. Cancer cells attack and weaken the body. They can begin in one location and metastasize to other parts of the body. In most cases, the causes are unknown so there is little you can do to prevent it. That’s why early detection and treatment are so important.

Types of treatment

Cancer treatment in pets is similar to human treatments. According to the American College of Veterinary and Internal Medicine, the ultimate goals are often different. Doctors usually try to cure human patients. As veterinarians can rarely cure cancer in animals, comfort and quality of life are the primary focus.

Your pet’s course of treatment may include surgical intervention, bone marrow transplants, and chemotherapy. The chemicals used in treatment may cause bone marrow issues, stomach problems, hair loss, and other side effects. As a pet’s chemotherapy dose is lower than a human’s, pets have fewer side effects.

Early treatment is critical

As with any condition, early treatment is the key to maintaining your pet’s health. That’s why it’s important to know your pet. You should regularly examine your cat or dog to detect early signs of cancer or other diseases.

If you suspect a problem, discuss it with your veterinarian as soon as possible, especially if you notice any of these signs.

  • Unexplained weight changes
  • Ongoing diarrhea and vomiting
  • Injuries that don’t heal
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Changes in the skin
  • Masses or bumps
  • Bleeding from a body opening
  • Excessive thirst

Hebron Veterinary Hospital

We want to help you keep your pet safe and healthy. Contact at (860) 228-4324 if you notice any of the above signs or other unusual symptoms.