May Is Pet Cancer Awareness Month

By Timothy John, DVM, Pilchuck’s Small-Animal Department

Many of us think of our dogs and cats as family members, so it can be devastating to hear if one of our furry friends is diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, cancer is one of the leading causes of death in pets, especially now that our pets are living longer.

Knowing the early warning signs of cancer in our animal companions, however, can result in a more rapid diagnosis and allow for a potentially better outcome. Some of these signs include:

  • Changes in bathroom habits (particularly blood in the stool or urine)
  • Changes in appetite or water intake
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Wounds that will not heal
  • Increased size, shape or color in skin lumps
  • Changes in activity (such as hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina)
  • Evidence of pain or discomfort 

Note that there is not just one sign that is always predictive of cancer, and the symptoms above do not automatically signal cancer. While some symptoms may also be part of other disease problems, it is important not to discount or ignore these problems if they persist over time.

Just as in people, cancer can sometimes be slowly progressive and other times frighteningly quick in how it attacks the body. Reach out to your pet’s veterinarian if you notice any of the signs listed here.

Obtaining a complete history of how and when the problem started is typically one of a veterinarian’s first steps in diagnosing the problem. Next, laboratory work and radiographs can be valuable in determining the extent of the problem and a plan for going forward.

The key point to remember is “the sooner, the better”: Early detection and diagnosis lead to earlier treatment, which can mean a potentially better prognosis. And those regular veterinary visits you’re always hearing about? They play an important role in early detection of many conditions, including cancer.

PVH offers comprehensive and 24/7 emergency care for your pets. Located in Snohomish. For appointments, please call 360.568.3113.

Article added 5/8/14