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Pet Cancer Awareness Month


With the month of May in full swing, so is Pet Cancer Awareness Month. Hearing the words, “your pet has cancer,” is the dread of every pet parent. The goal of Pet Cancer Awareness Month is to educate and inform pet parents of the signs of cancer in their pets. 

Cancer is the number one disease that kills pets. Almost one in two dogs will get diagnosed with cancer at some point. Approximately one third of the cancers found in dogs are skin cancers. Dogs have also been found to be have more types of cancer, such as bone, head, neck and lymphoma cancer. Breast cancer and leukemia are the most common cancers in dogs after skin cancer, while lymphoma is the most common cancer in cats. Lymphoma is associated with the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Although cats have only half the rate of cancer than dogs, cat cancer tends to be more aggressive. 

There are many reasons a pet can get cancer. The breed of the pet can have something to do with it. With dogs, German Shepard’s, Rottweilers and Golden Retrievers are more susceptible to getting cancer. Factors common with humans, such as not getting enough exercise is another factor. Animals in households where there is cigarette smoke seem to develop more cancers, and there are also suggestions that animals who groom themselves more frequently may develop cancer. The reason for this is possibly due to environmental toxins in their homes, like floor cleaners, flame retardants on furniture and PCBs. Pet parents who don’t routinely clean their pets water and food bowls, or don’t store their pets food properly may be contributing to their pets health. Leaving food and bowls laying around without cleaning them gives the objects a chance to grow bacteria. 

Frequently observed in pets diagnosed with cancer is cachexia, which means progressive, severe weight lose. Pets lose weight for a couple reasons, one because of a lack of appetite and the other because of cancer-induced metabolism. A proper diet while undergoing cancer treatment is essential to help a pet stay as healthy as possibly by maintaining their strength, improving their quality of life and giving them a better chance of responding to therapy.

Although a pets cancer diagnose can be upsetting to pet parents, there is hope. Many vets offer chemotherapy and radiation treatments for pets in their offices, and the success rate of these cancer approaches continue to climb. There are many cancers that can be cured with the help of a supportive therapy and pain management. With new technology and research, oncologists now understand that human cancer and animal cancer are similar, and with this understanding comes progressive ways to help both species. For a pet whose diagnosis is not good, pet parents can do some research and find a veterinary clinical trial which may be able to provide new options and give a pet relief from their symptoms. Treatment is often available at a lower cost, and even if a pet doesn’t respond to the treatment, its participation in the trail can help scientists develop better and more successful cancer treatments for other pets suffering from cancer. 

There are many resources on the internet that pet parents can reach out to for help if they want to learn more, or if their pet has been diagnosed with cancer. Websites include http://www.petcancerawareness.org and http://greatergood.com/petcancerawareness/. With continued support for pet and human cancer organizations, researchers can persevere in their efforts to find a cure.