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.
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.