Cancer is a very common problem amongst our pets seen
today. Cancer can occur almost anywhere there
is tissue. Bone, breast tissue, lymph nodes, skin,
organs (spleen, liver, kidneys, stomach and intestines,
heart, lungs, etc) can all be affected.
Cancer can also appear in other areas not associated
with any structure in particular, such as beneath the
skin layer, or in the chest cavity, or the abdominal
Diagnosis of cancer can be done by x-rays, blood tests,
and physical examination, but the most concrete way
to diagnose cancer is from a sample of the affected
If a lump or tumor is detected, usually a tissue sample
will confirm whether cancer exists or not. Malignant
is the term used for a cancerous growth or tumor, while
benign implies the growth or tumor to be otherwise harmless
to the patient.
Certain breeds of dogs are more susceptible to developing
cancer. Boxers and Boston Terriers can develop
cancer at very early ages (6 months to a year).
Typically cancer is considered an old age disease (over
8 years old or more).
Treatment is based upon the type of cancer diagnosed,
as well as its location. For most tumors, surgery
is the only hope for cure. If the tumor can be
completely removed, and its behavior is not likely to
spread far from the sight of removal, surgery can be
Chemotherapy is reserved for those tumors where surgery
is not feasible. Widespread disease, or multiple
affected sites, where the tumor is likely to continue
to spread, lends a poorer prognosis for cure.
In these cases, control, or temporary remission (reduction
of tumor size to normal limits) is the goal. Chemotherapy
involves the use of different chemicals or drugs designed
to attack rapidly growing cells in the body. Since
cancerous cells are typically rapid growing cells, the
chemotherapy agents will target these cells.
Unfortunately, hair cells, intestinal cells, and blood
cells, are also rapidly growing and dividing cells.
These cells can become affected as innocent bystanders.
In the dog and cat, these innocent bystanders usually
only become mildly affected, thus the side effects of
hair loss, vomiting and nausea with diarrhea, and anemia
with low white blood cell counts, are minimal in our
Only certain types of cancers will respond to chemotherapy.
Cancer of the lymph system (lymph nodes etc.) known
as lymphoma or lymphosarcoma, is one of the more commonly
seen cancers, and will typically respond well to chemotherapy.
Duration of response or remission varies with patients.
Typically, 8-12 month remission times are accomplished
with this type of cancer.
Radiation therapy and cold therapy known as Cryotherapy
are other techniques utilized against certain cancers
in our pets. This type of treatment is usually
limited to larger hospitals or learning institutions
(Veterinary training schools). Your veterinarian
should be able to refer you to an institution for appropriate
treatment. As well, some veterinary practices are utilizing
Pet Care, Nutrition and Cancer for more information
about nutrition and a Nutraceutical approach to cancer