Cancer in pets Print E-mail
News - Rubrieke
Friday, 16 July 2021 07:00
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Dr Liesel van der Merwe is a small animal medicine specialist. Send her your questions: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Dr Liesel van der Merwe

As our dogs get older, they are at a greater risk for many diseases, including cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute in the United States, approximately six million dogs are diagnosed with cancer each year. This implies that cancer remains one of the important diseases that pet owners and veterinarians should always keep an eye on.

Scientific literature has shown that roughly one in four dogs will at some stage in their life develop neoplasia (cancer). The research further states that almost half of dogs over the age of ten will develop cancer.

It is reported that dogs get cancer at roughly the same rate as humans. Unfortunately, there is less information about the rate of cancer in cats and other pets. Dogs are, no doubt, man’s best friend. So, it is important that pet owners become aware of the unfortunate possibility of their pet getting cancer. But, what can a person do to reduce the risk of this disease?

Awareness about cancer in pets is crucial since early detection can ensure early intervention through working closely with your local veterinarian. Cancer is not a new disease. Many veterinarians and pet owners have observed that pets develop cancer more frequently during the late stages of their lives.

Dr Kgasi, president of the South African Veterinary Council highlighted the role that veterinarians play and said, “More research is needed on cancer in animals, especially in the areas of advanced age, causal agents, breed susceptibility and process of cancer development.”

“Therefore, celebrating World Cancer Day and creating awareness of cancer is important as it shines the spotlight on significance of the disease and the associated need for research in the field of cancer. Pet owners are encouraged to work closely with their veterinarian, as the veterinarian is a valuable ally in the diagnosis and necessary interventions related to cancer,” dr Kgasi said.

Based on research in both humans and animals, we are aware that cancer development is an intricate process that can be prompted by genetic, environmental, and nutritional factors. In both people and animals, cancer development is a complex process that proceeds gradually through the interaction of multiple factors.

There are many different types of cancer, such as lymphoma, melanoma, and prostate cancer; and the illness can occur all over the various parts of the body. Cancer can be defined as an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells, and the signs and symptoms can vary greatly, depending on the organ affected and type. So, monitoring your older dog’s overall health is essential.

Some signs of cancer in dogs and cats are clinically visible while others are not. The signs of cancer in pets may differ, depending upon several factors. The following list identifies some of the most common signs of cancer in pets; however these could be related to other conditions which is why a visit to your local veterinarian is important.

  • Lumps and bumps underneath a dog’s skin
  • Evidence of pain
  • Excessive abdominal swelling
  • Non-healing wounds or sores
  • Sudden and irreversible weight loss
  • Lethargy or depression
  • Change in appetite
  • Coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Changes in bathroom habits
  • Abnormal odours emanating from the mouth, ears or any other part of the body
  • Abnormal discharge from the eyes, mouth, ears, or rectum

Remember that, although there is still much to be learned about cancer there are steps to be taken to prevent cancer as far as possible. These include:

  • Spaying or neutering your pet;
  • Minimising sun exposure;
  • Taking your pet for regular visits to the vet;
  • Ensuring that your pet is at a healthy weight;

If you suspect that your pet has cancer, please visit or contact your nearest veterinary clinic or hospital for advice.

Origin: South African Veterinary Council

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