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Cancer In Companion Animals

Cancer is common in dogs and cats. It accounts for almost half of the deaths of pets over 10 years of age. Cats get fewer cancers than humans but dogs get cancer at roughly the same rate. Some frequently asked questions and answers about cancer in dogs and cats have been published by the American Veterinary Medical Association and Veterinary Cancer Society and are listed below.

What are neoplasia, tumors and cancer?
Neoplasia is the uncontrolled, abnormal growth of cells or tissues in the body, and the abnormal growth itself is called a neoplasm or tumor. It can be benign or malignant. Benign neoplasms do not grow aggressively, do not invade the surrounding body tissues, and do not spread throughout the body. Malignant neoplasms, on the other hand, tend to grow rapidly, invade the tissues around them and spread or metastasize to other parts of the body.

How is it Diagnosed?
Neoplasia is often suspected on the basis of the pet’s medical history and physical exam. Additional tests, such as radiographs (x-rays), blood tests, and ultrasound exams, may be necessary to confirm neoplasia. A biopsy, taking a tissue sample from the neoplasm for examination under a microscope, is usually necessary to confirm the diagnosis and help determine if the neoplasm is benign or malignant. Additional biopsies of other tissues, such as lymph nodes, may be necessary to determine how far a malignant neoplasm (cancer) has spread.

Is neoplasia preventable?
Unfortunately, the cause of most neoplastic diseases is not known and, therefore, prevention is difficult. Early detection and treatment are the best ways to manage neoplasia in pets.

How is cancer treated?
Each type of neoplasia requires individual care and may include one or a combination of treatment therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, cryosurgery (freezing), hyperthermia (heating) or immunotherapy. Your pets overall health is important too, and your veterinarian may recommend dietary changes or other things to help your pet better respond to treatment. Once you have a diagnosis, your veterinarian will discuss the best treatment option(s) for your pet and the risks and side effects associated with each option. Pain management is also an important part of treatment.

Some types of neoplasia can be cured, but other types can only be managed to decrease spread and prolong your pets comfort and life as much as possible. How early a neoplasm is detected and the type of neoplasm are often the biggest factors determining the success of treatment.

Sometimes, euthanasia is considered when a pet has neoplasia (especially with some cancers). Before you make your decision for treatment or euthanasia, discuss the options with your veterinarian so you can make the best choice for your pet and your family.

What is the success rate?
This strongly depends upon the type and extent of the neoplasia, as well as the aggressiveness of therapy. Benign neoplasms are usually easier to treat and treatment of any type of neoplasia is more likely to be successful if the neoplasms are detected early. Although some neoplasms (especially more aggressive cancers) cannot be cured, treatment can prolong your pet’s life and improve their quality of life.

Dr. Heidi Ward practices at Gulf Coast Veterinary Oncology and Internal Medicine. 7519 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34231. (941) 926-1920.
Wednesday appointments in Ft Myers.


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