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Catching Cancer in Companion Animals

cancer in dogs, dogs, stray dogs, companion animals
Jada, a Pilot Pup rescued by

Protecting Companion Animals from Cancer

Cancer is a terrible reality for many companion animals, just as it is for humans. Early detection is critical for a better prognosis and successful treatment. As companion animal guardians, we need to be observant and aware of changes in our dogs and cats, as well as our other animals. As in humans, early detection of cancer in dogs and cats is key for several reasons. Here's why catching this disease early on can make a world of difference:

1. Better Prognosis

One of the most compelling reasons for early detection is a better chance of recovery. Tumors that are detected early are generally smaller, have affected fewer body systems, and are less likely to have metastasized or spread to other parts of the body. This can result in a significantly better outcome for the animal.

2. More Treatment Options

When cancer is caught early, companion animal guardians and veterinarians typically have a wider array of treatment options to consider. This could range from surgery to remove a localized tumor to less aggressive forms of chemotherapy or radiation. Late-stage cancers might limit the available treatments, either because they wouldn't be effective or they might pose too great a risk to the animal’s overall health.

3. Reduced Treatment Costs

Early-stage cancers might be treated with less intensive—and less expensive—treatments. By catching and treating cancer before it progresses, companion animal guardians may face fewer treatment sessions, less medication, and potentially less costly procedures.

4. Preservation of Quality of Life

An early diagnosis often means that the animal has not started showing severe symptoms. This not only makes treatments potentially more effective but also ensures that the animal suffers less, preserving their quality of life. Advanced cancers can lead to pain, weight loss, and a host of other symptoms that can severely diminish an animal’s quality of life.

5. Provides Time to Make Informed Decisions

Discovering cancer in its early stages gives companion animal guardians the time to research, seek specialists if needed, and make informed decisions about the best course of action. Late-stage diagnoses can sometimes force companion animal guardians into making rushed decisions under emotional stress.

6. Peace of Mind for Companion Animal Guardians

Knowing that you've caught a problem early and are doing everything possible to address it can provide significant peace of mind. The alternative, realizing that a treatable illness was overlooked until it became severe, can lead to feelings of guilt and regret.

Cancer in Dogs and Cats: Signs to Know

Some symptoms of cancer in dogs and cats might be subtle or easily mistaken for other ailments. Here are some commonly missed signs to watch out for:

1. Lumps or Bumps

Any new lump or bump should be checked by a veterinarian. While many lumps are benign, such as lipomas (fatty tumors), some can be malignant. Also, monitor any existing lumps for changes in size or texture.

2. Unexplained Weight Loss

While weight loss can be a sign of various conditions, sudden or unexplained weight loss is a concern and could be indicative of cancer.

3. Chronic Vomiting or Diarrhea

While occasional vomiting or diarrhea can be caused by many issues, such as animals eating things they shouldn't, chronic symptoms can be a sign of gastrointestinal tumors.

4. Loss of Appetite

A decrease in appetite might be mistaken for pickiness, but it can be a sign of oral tumors or other forms of cancer.

5. Bad Breath

Bad breath in companion animals can be a sign of poor dental health, but it can also indicate oral tumors.

6. Chronic Cough

A persistent cough can be indicative of lung cancer, especially if your companion animal has not shown previous signs of respiratory issues.

7. Difficulty Breathing

Struggling for breath or shortness of breath might be indicative of tumors in the chest.

8. Bloody Discharge

Blood from the mouth, nose, or any other body opening should be a cause for concern. For instance, blood in the urine can be a sign of bladder cancer.

9. Limping or Pain

Bone cancer, especially in larger dog breeds, can manifest as limping or noticeable pain.

10. Non-healing Wounds

Sores or wounds that don’t heal can be a sign of skin cancer, especially if there's no apparent reason, such as trauma to the wound.

11. Decreased Stamina

If your normally active companion animal is suddenly lethargic or gets tired easily, it could be a sign of underlying issues, including cancer.

12. Difficulty Eating or Swallowing

Tumors in the mouth or throat can cause pain or difficulty while eating.

13. Enlarged Lymph Nodes

The lymph nodes, particularly those around the neck or behind the knee, can become enlarged due to certain types of cancer.

cancer in dogs, dogs, stray dogs, companion animals
Becky, a Pilot Pup rescued by

How to Stay Proactive

Regular Vet Visits: Annual check-ups, or more frequent ones for older companion animals, can catch many health issues early, including cancer.

Know Your Companion Animal: Being in tune with your companion animal’s normal behavior and habits will help you notice when something is off.

Don’t Hesitate: If you spot any of the above signs or other changes in your companion animal, see a veterinarian right away.

Remember, not all of these signs necessarily indicate cancer. They can be indicative of other health issues as well. But it's always best to check with a veterinarian if you notice any changes in your companion animal's health or behavior. Early detection and treatment can make all the difference.

Cancer in Stray Animals

Of course, stray animals are just as susceptible to cancer as all other animals. However, cancer typically impacts older animals. Because the average lifespan of a stray dog is only 3-4 years, and the average lifespan of a stray cat is 2-5 years, stray animals generally suffer from other horrifying deaths such as starvation, road accidents and other diseases. And in many countries around the world, stray animals are brutally killed by humans by being shot, poisoned, electrocuted, and worse.

Stray animals who do live long enough to suffer from cancer have no access to treatment.

Hundreds of millions of dogs and cats are born into this endless Cycle of Suffering where they are never given a fair chance at life.

That’s why 600 Million Dogs is working to address the intense suffering of stray animals right at the source of the issue. Our nonprofit science-centered mission is to significantly reduce animal suffering on a global scale by developing a safe, edible, one-dose, permanent-lasting birth control Cookie for stray dogs and cats.


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