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Knowledge Is Power

Cancer In Pets

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in any part of the body.  Cancer cells crowd out normal tissue and have the potential to spread throughout the body. All of them have a different biologic behavior meaning how slow or fast they grow, how aggressively they invade into tissue, and how likely they are to spread.  Grade describes how abnormal the cancer cells appear under the microscope; low(er) grade tumors usually carry a better prognosis. Stage refers to how far the cancer has spread in the body.

Cancer is a disease that knows no boundaries and dogs and cats are diagnosed every day with this devastating disease. The prevalence of cancer in pets is increasing likely in part due to to pets living longer from advanced veterinary care. Cancer occurs in up to 4 million dogs and cats and is one of the top causes of death of older companion animals.
One of the biggest questions about cancer is why it occurs. There is not one answer to this complicated question. In some cases, it is genetic, but in most it is a random event. Cancer arises from mutations of DNA which are not repairable. These mutations occur due to the natural aging process, environmental causes (such as cigarette smoke and lung cancer), UV exposure, and viruses. In animals, it is never due to the food you are feeding, flea/tick products, or something you did to cause it to happen.

If your vet is concerned that your pet has cancer, I recommend doing the testing to confirm the diagnosis. This is usually done by obtaining a sample for cytology or biopsy. Once a diagnosis is established then I can get involved to help. Cancer is a word that evokes strong emotions and feelings. Many of us know a family member or friend who have been diagnosed with cancer and it tends to instill great fear, but it does not need to be that way. My role as veterinary oncologist is to educate veterinarians and pet owners on the disease process and progression, discuss treatment options, promote hope and reasonable expectations, and esupport everyone through the journey. It is my goal to educate primary care veterinarians thoroughly to make the diagnosis less intimidating and more manageable at the local care level.