by Petfolk Care Team
Medically reviewed by Dr. Audrey Wystrach
Just as with people, your pet can develop cancer during their lifetime. About 50% of dogs in the U.S. over the age of 10 get cancer, and cats are susceptible at about half the rate of dogs. For the best outcome, it’s important to detect and start treatments for cancer as early as possible.
Many pet owners have important questions about cancer. What are the ways to detect cancer early? How is cancer treated in pets? What can you do to decrease the likelihood of cancer in your beloved pet? Let’s discuss these questions.
How is cancer detected in pets?
Several tests are used to diagnose cancer in pets. The initial tests that are typically performed include basic blood work including a Complete Blood Count (CBC) and a Chemistry panel to check blood cell levels, organ function, and a urinalysis. When abnormalities are found, or if cancer is suspected, imaging tests such as X-rays and ultrasounds are used to visually examine organs more closely. Samples from abnormal areas can be taken with needles or biopsy instruments to have the cells visualized under a microscope. In rare cases, complex imaging with a CT or MRI machine may be used to detect cancer.
Can cancer be detected in blood work? This is a common question many pet parents have. The answer is yes! There is now a reliable blood test that screens for many common cancers in pets. We encourage our pet parents to consider this test every year for their pets age seven and older.
How is cancer treated in pets?
Pets diagnosed with cancer can receive many of the same treatments as people such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. The treatment recommended will depend upon the specific type of cancer and which stage it is in at the time of diagnosis. If your pet develops cancer in its lifetime, a referral to a veterinary oncologist will likely be recommended to help you decide on the best treatment option for your pet and your family.
Can cancer be prevented in pets?
Every pet parent fears that their pet may get cancer. Here are some ways that you can reduce the risk of cancer by encouraging the best health possible for your beloved pet:
- Feed high-quality pet food. We are happy to discuss what is best for you to feed your pet.
- Keep annual exams, vaccines, and preventatives up to date as recommended by your vet.
- Keep your pet at a healthy weight; overweight pets are at an increased risk of developing cancer.
- Take your pets on regular walks to maintain a healthy musculoskeletal structure.
- Avoid exposing your pet to secondhand smoke.
- Avoid direct sunlight for long periods, especially for light-coated pets.
- Follow your vet’s recommendations for maintenance lab work and additional cancer screening tests.
- Let your vet know immediately of any concerning health changes you notice such as a change in appetite, weight loss, vomiting, lethargy, lumps or bumps on the skin, etc.
Your veterinarians at Petfolk will work with you to ensure your pet has the longest, healthiest life possible. If your pet develops cancer, our team will be by your side as you make decisions based on the advice and options you are given. Please reach out to us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your pet’s health.