May is Pet Cancer Awareness Month, and the most important message one veterinarian oncologist wants the public to know is that cancer in animals is no longer a death sentence.
“Just like in people, the earlier you find certain cancers, the more likely we are able to cure them,” Dr. Gerald Post, a board-certified veterinary oncologist and owner of The Veterinary Cancer Center in Norwalk, Conn., told FoxNews.com. “The treatments we give nowadays, like radiation, chemo or targeted chemotherapy, are generally well-tolerated by pets. We’ve gotten much better at determining what’s the best dose, what’s the best interval – and there are many new drugs on the market that mitigate the side effects of chemo.”
Post said about one in four dogs will get cancer in its lifetime and about one in five cats will get cancer, which equates to approximately 4 to 8 million new cases of cancer in dogs each year.
There are certain breeds that are more susceptible than others, Post said, but “now that we have a dog genome sequence, we can take a look at what breeds are more prone.”
As a pet parent, there are signs you can lookout for when it comes to detecting cancer, Post said.
They include, but are not limited to:
• Swollen lymph nodes: Located throughout the body, they are easily located behind the jaw or the knee.
• An enlarging or changing lump: Any lump on a pet that is rapidly changing or growing should be biopsied.
• Abdominal distension: If the belly becomes quickly enlarged, this could suggest a tumor. A quick ultrasound can detect the problem.
• Unexplained bleeding: Bleeding that is not due to trauma should definitely be examined.
• Lameness: Unexplained lameness, especially in large dogs, is a common sign of bone cancer, and a radiograph can determine if there’s something wrong.
• Straining to urinate: Straining to urinate or blood in the urine can indicate a urinary tract infection, but if it’s not controlled with antibiotics, a biopsy of the bladder may be needed.