Does it seem like every other pet owner you’ve talked to have dogs diagnosed with cancer? It’s totally possible because the current rate of cancer diagnoses in dogs is higher than humans. VPI Pet Insurance issued the following frightening statistics about our furry friend’s chances to develop cancer:
• Dogs are twice as likely to develop leukemia than humans.
• Dogs are four times more likely to suffer from breast cancer (which is why we recommend spaying your female dog early).
• Dogs are eight times more likely to develop bone cancers.
• Dogs have a 35 percent higher rate of skin cancers than humans.
There are several reasons why our pets are developing cancer. Since they live in the same carcinogens in the environment with their humans, they may be susceptible to the same types of cancers. There is strong evidence that some of the carcinogens and chemicals being added to pet foods is causing this increase. There are signs that point to this such as the high incidence of mouth cancer being diagnosed in dogs. Also dogs spend an LOT of time sniffing which can cause them to inhale carcinogens that settle on the ground. We’re using so many pesticides, lawn treatments and other chemicals are being introduced into our home environments on a daily basis and the toxicity of them have not been tested on dogs or humans.
Have you ever slathered sunscreen on your dog? Me neither, but one of the highest incidence of cancer, especially in light colored, short-haired dogs, is several types of skin cancers.
Be ever watchful for signs of cancer in your canine as early intervention and veterinary care can increase chances of survival and a longer lifespan. Here are the top signs your dog should be checked by the vet for cancer:
1. Appetite Changes. Any time your cat or dog refuses to eat, this is a warning sign of something. It may not be cancer, but it may be something dangerous. Since there’s an increase in mouth cancers, your dog’s mouth should be checked by a vet to see if there are any physical changes that need to be looked at.
2. Sudden Weight Gain or Loss. Any time there’s a drastic difference in weight, especially cats, it may be an indication of many diseases and illnesses that your pets may have.
3. Different or Unusual Odors. If your dog’s breath or any other body parts start emitting offensive odors, it may be an indication of certain types of cancers, such as mouth, nose or internal cancers. Brushing your dog’s teeth on a regular basis will remind you to check for new odors or spots in the mouth.
4. New Lumps or Bumps. As you pet your dog do you suddenly feel a lump under the skin? Remember not every lump or bump is cancer, since some dogs do get cysts that are noncancerous, but they should be checked by a vet who will conduct a biopsy to figure it out for you and your pooch.
5. Unusual Discharges. If your dog has any discharges that contain blood or pus or develop diarrhea or start vomiting, this should be checked by your vet. Any changes in bowel or urinary habits should be watched carefully. This is especially critical if there is any sign of bloody stools.
6. Distended Stomach or Bloat. There is a severe illness sometimes noticed in deep-chested breeds, such as hounds called Bloat, but a distended or unusually large stomach may need to be checked out. Since Bloat is usually fatal if not caught in a short window of time, please rush your dog to the vet if you see any signs of distended stomachs or discomfort, especially difficulty breathing.
7. Wounds That Refuse to Heal. Since skin cancers are a concern and cancerous growths often act in usual ways, you should be aware of any unusual wounds or sores. If you see a sore that doesn’t heal in a reasonable length of time, it may indicate a skin infection, allergies or possible cancers.
8. Difficulty Breathing or Developing a Cough. There are several things that can cause a cough in dogs, from kennel cough to heartworm infestation, but abnormal breathing and a dry or funny cough can indicate cancers that have migrated to the lung tissue.
9. Depression, Lethargy or General Illness. Your dog may lose some of his playful attitudes and begin to sleep more and be less willing to go outside to potty or go on formerly enjoyed walks with the family. Depression-like symptoms are often seen in cats or dogs who develop cancer. Another sign might be a sudden unexplainable hair loss which can indicate diseases like lymphomas.
10. Pain or Wincing When Touched. If your dog or cat begins to limp or flinches or snaps when you touch their legs, etc. it may indicate the presence of bone cancer.
If you especially love your pet, it may be difficult to review this list, but keep it handy to remind you of the signs that may, in combination, indicate a change in your animal’s health. Not every sign listed above is strictly a sign of cancer and may actually indicate another illness.
Treatments for cancers include surgery to remove the affected areas, chemotherapy and radiation. The strides made in veterinary medicine are huge. A cancer diagnosis is no longer a death sentence, if treated properly and quickly. So keep in touch with your regular veterinarian on a regular basis to keep your pooch in good health. Your vet will be your dog’s new best friend.
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