Our pets are living longer and as a result they are also susceptible to some of the same illnesses as senior humans. One such illness is the development of cancer which is now the leading cause of death in our senior dogs. Cancer can affect many different organs from the skin, to the liver or lungs. Many factors may increase the susceptibility to cancer, such as genetic predisposition, exposure to insecticides, environmental toxins, second hand smoke, and many more.
Since cancer can affect many different organs, it is up to you and your veterinarian to monitor your pet for any changes in their weight, eating, urination, stool consistency, drinking more or less water than usual and changes in breathing. Semi-annual exams and screening blood work can help detect problems when they are most able to be treated. Daily grooming can help you detect any lumps or bumps that may be skin cancer. Oral exams, dental x-rays and dental cleanings can detect oral cancer. Some cancers sometimes can only be found by x-rays or exploratory surgeries.
Your family veterinarian is your first defense against cancer with early detection and removal or biopsy of the cancer. Once the cancer is identified, then treatments can be initiated depending on the type, size and location of the cancer. Just like in people, treatment can range from surgical excision, radiation and chemotherapy or combination of therapies. If you are located in a major metroplex or near a veterinary university, you may be able to consult with a veterinary specialist in oncology to determine the best treatment for your pet. The goal of cancer treatment is not always to eradicate the cancer entirely, but to lengthen the time you have left with your pet and to improve their quality of life.