November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month. November is dedicated to spreading the word about pet cancer, sharing stories of pet affected by cancer, and informing the public on prevention and treatment of cancer in pets. Many organizations are dedicated to fighting this disease, conducting research on pet cancer, and increasing awareness of this often devastating disease.
For most people, cancer has touched our lives in some way, shape or form. The word stirs up many emotions. When it has to do with our pets, it can be even more frightening and confusing, because our pets are unable to tell us what is wrong and how they are feeling. The stats on cancer in pets are staggering: 1 in 5 cats and 1 on 4 dogs will develop cancer in their lifetime. It is the leading disease-related cause of death in pets. Every animal has the potential to develop cancer, and most develop in middle-aged to older pets. Some breeds are predisposed to developing certain types of cancer, which in other cases, environmental or other conditions may be a factor.
Because cancer comes in so many types and forms, it is important to pay close attention to any early warning signs your pet may show. Many times, symptoms can be vague or attributed to many different conditions. That is why routine veterinary exams are so important; they allow you and your vet to discuss any changes in your pet, and detect any issues early, which treatments are easier and more successful.
Some early warning signs to speak to your vet about:
- Any growth or lump anywhere on your pet’s body
- Sores that do not heal
- Bleeding or discharge from a body opening
- Extreme changes in weight and/or appetite
- Strong odors
- An unwillingness to exercise
- Persistent lameness or stiffness
- Difficulty eating, breathing, urinating or defecating
Take your pet to the veterinarian if you notice any of these signs, or have a suspicion that your pet is not feeling quite right. Early detection is key to treating any condition and provides the best chances for a positive outcome. Every patient, diagnosis, and treatment plan will be unique to the patient and situation. Some cancer patients will have successful treatments and reach lifelong remission, but sadly, we know that many of them will fall victim to it. Know the signs, and seek prompt veterinary care.