Despite incredible advancements in veterinary medicine, veterinary professionals are seeing more cancer in pets than ever before, which might be due in part to our furry companions’ longer lives. Overall, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) estimates about one in four dogs will develop neoplasia at some point in their lives, and almost half over the age of 10 will develop cancer.
Common cancers in pets
Some of the most common types of cancer in pets include:
- Osteosarcoma — Osteosarcoma is a highly aggressive bone cancer that most commonly invades the limb bones in large- and giant-breed dogs. All too often, metastases to the lungs have formed by the time this cancer is diagnosed, making the prognosis a grim one.
- Mammary gland cancer — Highly preventable through correctly timed spaying of female pets, mammary gland cancer is the most common tumor found in female dogs. Mammary tumors in cats are malignant 85% of the time; in dogs, they are cancerous about half the time.
- Hemangiosarcoma — This aggressive cancer affects vascular endothelial cells, with tumors most often occurring in the spleen or heart. Certain breeds are more predisposed than others, including boxers, German shepherds, Labradors, and golden retrievers.
- Lymphoma — Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph system, which is part of the immune system. In cats, one in three cancer diagnoses is lymphoma, with the gastrointestinal tract most commonly affected.
- Mast cell tumors — More common in dogs than cats, these skin tumors can range from relatively benign if removed early, to seriously malignant and aggressive.
Cancer signs in pets
Certain signs seem to point to cancer development in pets, so keep a sharp eye out for the following potential cancer indicators:
- Growing lumps, bumps, or swellings that do not go away
- Sores that do not heal
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Abnormal bleeding or discharge
- Unpleasant odor
- Difficulty swallowing or eating
- Persistent lameness
- Difficulty breathing
- Problems urinating or defecating
- Vomiting or diarrhea
Although many of these signs can be caused by other diseases, they all require veterinary attention to help your pet feel their best again. If you notice any abnormalities in your pet, contact your regular veterinarian right away.