10 Tips to Diagnose Cancer in your Pet

*The following information has been provided by Dr. Phil Zeltzman, a board-certified veterinary surgeon from Whitehall, Pennsylvania as a courtesy to goodnewsforpets readers. The following article is only for the sharing of knowledge and information; it is not intended to replace consultation of a veterinarian or other qualified pet care professional. To subscribe to his newsletter, here.

Cancer claims millions of pets each year.

This November, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), will seek to increase awareness about the prevalence, detection and treatment of pet cancer during its 5th annual and national “Pet Cancer Awareness Month” campaign.

In 2005, VPI designated every November as Pet Cancer Awareness Month after noticing that the diagnosis of cancer often caught pet owners by surprise. Many either did not know their pet could develop cancer or underestimated the cost to treat cancerous conditions.

In 2008, VPI received nearly 30,000 claims for pet cancer. The most common form of pet cancer, lymphosarcoma, made up about a 5th of those claims!

Other common types of pet cancer include: mast cell tumors, fibrosarcomas and hemangiopericytomas (a tumor generally located on a limb). Other types of tumors were commonly found on the liver, spleen or eyelid.

Overall, cancer claims were the 6th most common type of medical claim received by VPI in 2008. According to their claims data, which draws from a population of more than 474,000 insured pets, following are the 10 most common types of cancer found in dogs and cats:

Top Pet Cancer Claims in 2008

1. Lymphosarcoma

2. Mast cell tumor

3. Cancer of the spleen

4. Cancer of the eyelid

5. Osteosarcoma

6. Cancer of the liver

7. Cancer of the chest cavity (often the lung)

8. Cancer of the brain or spinal cord

9. Fibrosarcoma

10. Hemangiopericytoma

The cost of treating a pet with cancer varies depending on the type of cancer and the length of therapy. If chemotherapy or radiation treatment is required, costs can reach several thousand dollars over time.

Some pet insurance companies offer an optional cancer-specific rider in addition to their basic medical plans.

To detect cancer early, pet owners should be attentive to any growing lump or sore that fails to heal, drastic changes in a pet’s appetite or weight, unusually strong odors coming from a pet, discharge or bleeding from any body opening, difficulty chewing or swallowing, or an unwillingness to exercise.

The American Veterinary Medical Association suggests the following:

10 warning signs of cancer in pets:

Abnormal swellings that persist or grow . Sores that do not heal . Weight loss (unintentional) . Loss of appetite . Bleeding or discharge from any body opening . Offensive odor . Difficulty eating or swallowing . Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina . Persistent lameness or stiffness . Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating

If you notice any of these signs in your dog or cat, please schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. Early detection is critical in the fight against pet cancer. Procrastination and denial are definitely not in your pet’s best interest.

And as a general rule, the earlier we diagnose cancer, the better the outcome.

Let’s end on a lighter note

Sue Bulanda, a behaviorist in Jim Thorpe, sends this interesting video entitled “What Welshmen do when they are boredþ.”

It’s not quite what you might expect. And it will take 3 minutes of your time.



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