Cancer, by definition, is the uncontrolled growth of cells. Any type of cells in a dog or cat’s body can become cancerous. Once these cells grow out of control, they take over areas previously occupied by normal cells, sometimes breaking off and traveling to other areas of the body. Wherever these cells lodge, they can start new tumors. This process continues until there is not enough normal tissue remaining to sustain normal bodily function.
While there are many research studies devoted to determining the causes of canine and feline cancer, a lot about this disease is still unknown. It is evident that factors like genetics, exposure to harmful substances, injury, and advanced age can predispose certain patients to this disease.
Regular physical examinations and thorough review of your pet’s medical history are often key components in detecting cancer. Samples of any abnormal tissue should be evaluated by a pathologist to determine the type of tumor and degree of aggressiveness of the disease. A pathologist’s report, along with other imaging such as x-rays, ultrasound, and lab work help establish your pet’s health status and determine the optimal treatment plan.
There are many different types of cancer treatments for dogs and cats: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or any combination of these. The important thing is to destroy the abnormal cells without damaging the normal cells. Veterinary oncologists, veterinarians that specialize in the study and treatment of cancer, can be consulted to help determine what treatment would be best for your pet.
Cancer in dogs and cats is not always a terminal disease. Early detection and appropriate treatments are important in achieving the best outcome. New advancements in diagnostics and more effective treatments are being discovered all the time.