Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs. Half of all dogs over ten years old die of cancer and the incidence is increasing. Tumor is an alternative term for cancer which is defined as an uncontrolled overgrowth of cells. Tumors can be benign if the cell growth is restricted to a local area, like a mole. Cancers are called “malignant” when the cell growth is invasive. These tumors can spread throughout the body and are ultimately capable of causing death. Any lump or bump you find on your dog should be examined by your vet as soon as possible. Lumps that grow fast, change size or shape, ooze or break open, are hard, firmly attached to the body or have an unusual color are all causes for concern.
WHAT YOUR VET CAN DO
* Diagnostics may include a cytology which involves using a needle to withdraw a few cells from the lump. Examination under the microscope confirms whether a lump is benign or malignant. Malignant tumors should be biopsied. In a biopsy, a small piece of tissue is removed and examined under the microscope. This provides a definite, exact diagnosis. Once the exact type of cancer is known, the most appropriate treatment can then be determined. Benign tumors should be monitored once or twice a year because occasionally they can become malignant.
* Tomography is a relatively new procedure available for pets which is able to detect many types of cancer in Stage I or at its earliest onset. Over 90 percent of all cancer in people and pets can be cured with detection in Stage I.
* Cancer specialists, called oncologists, offer treatment options for pets similar to those available for people. These include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. New treatments include phototherapy, hyperthermia, and cryosurgery. Immunotherapy involves using various medications to stimulate the immune system. The best treatment will depend on the type of tumor, the extent of its development and the health status of the dog. If cancer is detected early, treatment options are greater, as is the chance for recovery.
* The most common sites for tumors to develop in dogs are the skin, mouth, mammary glands, and lymph nodes.
Herbal immune stimulation is often used in conjunction with conventional cancer therapy. Therapeutic nutrition involves using “cancer-fighting diets. These diets are made using low levels of carbohydrates with increased levels of fats and high-quality proteins. Cancer cells use carbohydrates to grow so the low carbohydrates are geared to slow their rate of growth.
Cancer therapy may not be appropriate for every pet or family but it is helpful to minimize discomfort and improve the quality of life during a pets final months. Cancer treatment prolongs life for an average of one year in dogs. Thinking in animal years, as opposed to people years, one year is a very long time.