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June 2015

Treating Cancer in Pets

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Treating Cancer in Pets

Cancer is getting increasingly common in pets. In senior dogs (10 years of age or older), it is the most common cause of death. Fewer cats are diagnosed with the disease than dogs but it often goes undetected until in an advanced stage. In addition, cats often develop aggressive types of cancer which means that the disease quickly becomes life-threatening. Just like in humans, cancer in both dogs and cats is treated a lot easier if detected early. For that reason it is of utmost importance to know the symptoms of the disease and seek veterinary help immediately if suspecting that your pet may have cancer.

Signs and Symptoms of Cancer in Pets

Unfortunately, cancer in pets usually doesn’t cause any early warning signs. Depending on the type of cancer and the organ affected, signs and symptoms of the disease may include a lump/bump, poorly healing wounds, enlarged lymph nodes and swelling (any type) but there may also be behavioral changes such as refusal to eat and lethargy. Cancer is especially difficult to recognize in cats due to their tendency to hide illness. In addition, symptoms of cancer in both dogs and cats sometimes mimic those of other, less dangerous diseases. Pet owners are therefore recommended to take their dog or cat to a vet for examination if he/she is showing any signs of feeling unwell or ill.

Cancer Treatment Options for Pets

Cancer treatment options for pets are very similar to those used to treat the disease in humans. Depending on the type and stage of the disease, treatment can involve surgical removal of the tumor, chemotherapy, immunotherapy or radiation therapy, or a combination of two or multiple treatments. In dogs, many cancers are successfully treated with surgery. The latter is also used to treat cancer in cats but since they usually develop an aggressive form of cancer such as feline lymphoma or/and don’t show that they are unwell, surgical treatment often isn’t enough. If the disease is in an advanced stage or if the tumor cannot be removed surgically, veterinarian may recommend chemotherapy or/and radiation therapy. Many animal clinics, especially those that specialize in oncology also offer immunotherapy which works by encouraging the immune system to fight the disease on its own.

Efficacy of the Available Cancer Treatments and Survival Rates

Efficacy of the available cancer treatments for pets is comparable to efficacy of cancer treatments for humans. If the disease is detected and treated early, the results are very good. The survival rates vary significantly, depending greatly on the type of cancer and its stage. The overall survival rate in dogs is estimated at approximately 60%. In cats, the overall survival rate is below 50% due to the reasons discussed above. But it is also important to mention that major advancements have been made in treating cancer in pets, with new treatments and therapies being developed, tested and introduced on an ongoing basis, providing new hope for both dogs and cats with cancer.

What to Do if Your Pet Has Cancer?Cancer Dog

If your pet has been diagnosed with cancer that doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog or cat will die. But even if he/she is suffering from an incurable form of cancer, there are plenty of therapies to both extend his/her life and improve quality of life in the final months or weeks. Talk to your vet about different treatments as well as complementary therapies to help your pet fight this dangerous disease or at least ease the pain if there is no hope for recovery.

Symptoms of Eye Problems in Dogs & Cats

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Symptoms of Eye Problems

Pets can develop many of the same problems with eyes that affect their human owners. Eye problems in both dogs and cats thus range from minor, self-limiting nuances that go away on their own to progressive eye conditions that can seriously affect vision and even lead to blindness. For that reason it is very important to pay attention to signs and symptoms that may indicate an eye problem and know when to seek veterinary help.

Identifying Eye Problems in Dogs

Healthy eyes in dogs are bright and clear. The area surrounding the eyeball is white and pupils are of equal size. There should be no discharge, crusts in the corners or tearing, all of which signal that something is wrong. Other signs and symptoms of eye problems in dogs include eye redness, fully or partially closed eye (or both eyes), visible third eyelid, color change, cloudiness, pupils of different sizes and tear stains on fur.

If your dog has any of the mentioned signs of eye problems or if you notice any other worrisome changes involving the eyes, you should take him to a vet for examination as soon as possible. It could be nothing but it could also be an eye infection requiring prescription drops to make it go away. Sometimes, however, eye discharge, tearing, redness and other seemingly harmless symptoms are signaling a potentially serious underlying condition affecting the eyes including cataract, glaucoma and progressive retinal atrophy, to mention only a few. If left untreated, some of these conditions can cause permanent eye damage which may also include the loss of sight. And once the damage is done, it is almost always irreversible.

Identifying Eye Problems in CatsEye Irritation

Just like the eyes of their canine counterparts, healthy cat’s eyes are always bright and clear. Likewise, the area surrounding the eyeball is white and pupils are equal in size. If you notice symptoms such as crusts in the corners, tear stains, partially or fully closed eye (or both eyes), visible third eyelid, redness, tearing/watering, color change or cloudiness, your cat has an eye problem which should be evaluated by your vet. As soon as possible!

In addition to the obvious symptoms that something isn’t right, eye problems in cats (and dogs too!) can also be indicated by behavioral changes and body language such as frequent pawing of the eyes, blinking and squinting. These as well as the symptoms mentioned above can indicate a number of eye problems and conditions. Some of the most common ones include conjunctivitis or pinkeye, glaucoma, keratitis, retinal disease and third eyelid protrusion.

Treatment of eye problems in cats depends on the underlying cause. Just like in dogs, many eye problems in cats don’t need any special treatment, while others are successfully managed with appropriate eye drops. Some, however, may require more invasive treatment including surgery. Talk to your vet about treatment options for your pet including the risk of complications, prognosis and follow-up care.

Risk of Over Vaccination

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Risk of Over Vaccinating

Pet vaccines help save the lives of hundreds of thousands of animals each year. Just like those used to immunize humans, pet vaccines work by triggering the production of antibodies to particular pathogens which in turn provide protection if and when being exposed to the actual disease. Due to the widespread vaccination of pets against some of the most dangerous bacteria, viruses and fungi, many once very common and often fatal diseases have now all but disappeared. According to recent reports, however, many conditions are no longer as rare as they used to be just a decade ago. This is due to several reasons including the so-called over vaccination controversy which has led to a growing number of pet owners choosing not to vaccinate their dogs and cats.

Pet Vaccines Not Completely Harmless

The benefits of pet vaccines by far outweigh the risks. They provide protection against very serious and potentially fatal infections and conditions. And besides protecting dogs and cats, pet vaccines are also protecting their owners and help improve public health because some diseases such as rabies are not only a major health concern for animals but for people too.

Side effects are not impossible but first of all, they are very rare and second, they are usually mild – diarrhea, loss of appetite, swelling at the site of injection and fever. Unfortunately, more serious side effects are possible as well including anaphylaxis, a rare but very severe allergic reaction which develops almost immediately after receiving the shot.

Avoid Over Vaccinating Without Jeopardizing Your Pet’s Healthover vaccinating

Despite the risks mentioned above, the overwhelming majority of experts agree that all dogs and cats should receive core vaccines or vaccines for which there is a universal agreement that they are vital for pets’ health. In addition to core vaccines, there are also the so-called non-core vaccines but they are not recommended for all pets. Instead, they are recommended for dogs and cats that are at risk of a particular disease/condition due to their lifestyle or location, or both. An example of this is the rattlesnake vaccine. Those that live in rattlesnake territory are advised to keep that vaccine up to date, while others who live away from them (urban areas) have no need for it.

Though side effects, especially severe reactions are very rare, most experts agree that the low percentage of a reaction is worth protecting your pet from a number of other issues. According to most experts, too many vaccines are an “attack” on the immune system which can negatively affect the pet’s health. For the very same reason, many recommend against blanket annual vaccines, since some vaccines are annual but some are every three years. Your vet will know which is which.

To make sure that your pet receives all the vaccines he/she needs and avoid the risk of over vaccinating at the same time, you are advised to ask your vet to help you understand both the benefits and risks of particular vaccines, which vaccines are recommended for your pet, which are not necessary, and how often should your pet get his/her shots.

Proper Pet Ear Cleaning

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Proper Ear Cleaning

No matter if you own a dog or cat, your pet’s routine care and grooming should also include proper ear cleaning to keep his/her ears healthy. Without regular and proper cleaning, your pet’s ears can become a breeding ground for a wide range of parasites, bacteria and fungi. These can cause an infection which in turn can lead to a major discomfort, intense itching or/and severe pain. And if left untreated, ear infections can seriously jeopardize your pet’s health and well-being.

Dog Ear Care and Cleaning

To keep your dog’s ears healthy, it is crucial to regularly inspect his ears for dirt, debris and earwax buildup. There is no need to clean your dog’s ears too frequently. On the contrary, it can leave his ears too dry which in turn can cause irritation and other ear problems. Remember that it is perfectly normal to see some wax. But if your pet’s ears appear dirty, they probably are.

To clean your dog’s ears, gently wipe his ears with a gauze or cotton ball that was previously damped with an ear cleaning solution for dogs that can be found at pet supply stores. But if you don’t have the cleaning solution, you can also use mineral oil. Be sure not to clean too deep into the ear canal to avoid damaging the ear drum.

To prevent ear irritation and infections, you are also advised to protect your dog’s ears during baths and water activities, especially if he has a history of ear infections. Put cotton in his ears and dry them carefully after bathing/water activities. You can also buy an ear drying solution to evaporate any water that remains in your dog’s ears.

If you have any questions about proper ear cleaning or aren’t sure whether you are doing it right, ask your vet to show you how to clean your dog’s ears. You are also advised to ask your vet if you should remove hair from your pet’s ear canal, how to do this and how often.

Cat Ear Care and Cleaning

Ear Cleaning

Dog getting ears cleaned

Proper ear cleaning is vital for cat ear health as well. No special cleaning products or techniques are required other than perhaps an ear cleaning solution to safely and effortlessly remove excess wax, dirt and debris. Clean your cat’s ears when they appear dirty but clean only the outer ear. Resist the temptation to “go deeper” because you can cause more harm than good.

Watch for Signs of Ear Infections and Other Problems

If your pet’s ears appear very dirty, for example if you can see dark brown or black debris resembling ground coffee, your dog or cat probably has an ear infection. The mentioned symptoms usually signal mite infection but it is necessary for your pet to be examined by a vet. You are also recommended to take your dog or cat to your vet if you notice ear discharge, swelling, odor/unpleasant smell, redness, bleeding, crusts, hair loss, constant scratching or/and head shaking. Ear infections in dogs and cats usually aren’t serious but it is important for them to receive proper and prompt treatment.