Cancer is common in our pets. Dogs and cats can grow masses (tumors) in internal organs and on the skin. Any lumps or bumps you find on your pet should be evaluated right away. There are some types of cancers that can look and feel like benign growths (for instance, mast cell tumors can look and feel like benign fatty tumors), but microscopic evaluation of a Fine Needle Aspirate can identify the mast cells in a mast cell tumor. Our veterinarians recommend evaluating any new lumps, even in dogs that already have fatty tumors elsewhere.
Often, there are advanced therapy options for pets with cancers that include chemotherapy and radiation at local referral centers. Pets tolerate chemotherapy and radiation very well. In veterinary medicine we use lower doses than are used in human medicine, so we don’t see the serious side effects most people associate with cancer treatments.
We are just a phone call away – (904)-436-PETS (7387).
What is Cancer?
Similar to humans, our pets are living longer due to advances in medicine and an emphasis on preventive care and nutrition. Living longer lives exposes our animals to diseases of aging, especially cancer. An estimated 6 million dogs and nearly 6 million cats will be diagnosed with cancer this year. In many of these animals, the malignancy will look and behave much as it would in humans, i.e, spreading to the same organs.
Cancer occurs when the body’s immune system cannot stop cells from replicating at an abnormally fast, disorderly pace and forming a mass known as a tumor. Just as in humans, companion animal cancer is not caused by any single factor. While genetics and environmental factors can play a role in the disease’s development, other variables such as toxins, radiation and tumor viruses, as well as hormones can also be responsible for causing several types of cancer. And finally, suppressed or deficient immune systems can increase an animal’s risk of developing cancer.
Dogs are affected by more forms of cancer compared to other companion animals. According to The Veterinary Cancer Society, cancer is the leading cause of death in 47% of dogs, especially dogs over age ten, and 32% of cats. Dogs get cancer at about the same rate as humans, while cats get fewer cancers. Some breeds or families of dogs have a higher incidence for developing cancer at an earlier age, but in most cases, it’s a disease found in aging animals. There are nearly 100 types of animal cancer. Cancer in pets can be found in the skin, bones, breast, head & neck, lymph system, abdomen, and testicles.
Cats - Lymphoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Dogs - Lymphoma, Mast Cell Tumors, and Melanoma
Mass Removal Surgeries
Has your pet been diagnosed with a skin mass or tumor? Many of these types of masses can be treated or even cured with surgical removal. The mass is then sent to the lab. The pathologist at the lab will confirm the type of cells present and their behavior. This tells us how aggressive a particular mass is. They also can determine if we were able to remove all of the cancer cells.
Removing a skin mass is usually a simple procedure. Our veterinarians will make an incision through the skin, extending around the mass. Often some normal skin is removed with the mass – this ensures that any microscopic tumor cells surrounding the mass have been removed. Once the mass has been removed, the incision is closed with sutures. The tissue is closed in multiple layers, so your pet may have sutures both under the skin and externally.
Most pets recover well from mass removal surgery. Depending on the location of the mass, your pet may need to wear an e-collar (cone) after the procedure to prevent licking of the incision. Your pet will be sent home with pain medication, and may also be prescribed antibiotics or other medications depending on the size and location of the mass.
Some types of skin tumors can spread or grow back in the same spot. That’s why it is important to frequently touch and examine your pet. If you find any new lumps or bumps – particularly in a senior pet or a pet that has a history of skin tumors – see your veterinarian to get them checked out. It’s easier to remove a mass when it is small, so it’s best to address any new lumps as soon as possible.
Emotions run high when we humans hear the word cancer. Should we suspect cancer in your pet, the first step is to obtain a definitive diagnosis, develop a treatment plan along with our vet or veterinary specialist, and prepare to be an advocate for your pet by arming yourself with information.
**Note: The advice provided on this page is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your Jacksonville, FL vet - Intracoastal West Vet Hospital (904)436-PETS (7387).