One of the most feared words a person can hear from their doctor is the diagnosis of cancer.
For pet owners, a diagnosis of cancer from the veterinarian creates similar emotions.
Dr. David Visser joined 16 Saturday Morning to discuss cancer in pets.
Cancer in pets wasn’t as common 50-100 years ago as it is now, but during that same time period, improved pet care has increased a pet’s life expectancy by three times.
Nowadays, pets live sometimes well into the teens, and this has allowed geriatric conditions to emerge, compared with before when they simply didn’t live long enough to develop them.
Like in people, cancer can appear as lumps or bumps. Sometimes they are located on or under the skin, maybe in the lymph glands, and at other times, it is internal and can’t be felt from the outside.
It all begins with recognition of a problem at home. If a lump is found on a pet, you should bring it to the attention of your veterinarian. Sometimes the only clue is a pet that doesn’t want to eat, or acts sluggish or nauseated. A veterinarian can perform specialized tests to investigate.
Once cancer is suspected on examination, a veterinarian may take x-rays or use ultrasound to image a problem area.
A lump (or mass, as it’s called) will then be tested by collecting a small part of it. This is called biopsy or an aspiration cytology.
A specialized veterinary pathologist will evaluate the sample and give a report, usually within a week.
Blood work may also be needed to pinpoint the diagnosis or to evaluate the health of the internal organs.
Specifically now, treatments available for pets include: removing cancer with surgery, using specialized medications, or chemotherapy, similar to that used for cancer in people.
Inoperable tumors may benefit from radiation treatment. Other treatments may even involve priming the immune system to help clear the cancer.
To contact Dr. Visser, you can call the Center for Animal Health in Edwardsburg at (888) PETS-VETS, or email him at MichianaPetVet@comcast.net.