November is National Pet Cancer Awareness Month! As you might know, here at Turtle Creek we view the month of November as an opportunity to spread awareness about the seriousness of pet cancer, as well as sharing many educational opportunities with our clients. In this day and age, pets are living significantly longer, thanks to the research and technology that has evolved in veterinary medicine. So, what better way to enter the blogging world than with a blog about pet cancer?!
In our FIRST EVER blog post, I’m going to give you the cold hard truth about pet cancer. I’m going to try to help you understand which warnings signs could be more serious than you think.
|FACT:||Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells.|
|FACT:||Cancer is the #1 disease related cause of deaths in pets.|
|FACT:||Some breeds are more susceptible to certain cancers.|
|FACT:||Cancer cells develop because of damage to DNA, which can sometimes be inherited. More often, though, a dog’s DNA becomes damaged by exposure to something in the environment, such as tobacco smoke, pesticides or other carcinogens.|
Now that the facts are out, do you find yourself wondering which signs you should be looking for? Let me tell you:
- The obvious – what you see – LUMPS AND BUMPS. All lumps and bumps should be examined by a veterinarian, especially if they change in size or color, or do not resolve themselves (as in the case of insect bites). Your veterinarian might recommend a needle biopsy to let you know if this bump or lump has cancerous cells or not. Non-healing sores are also a concern and should be checked by your veterinarian.
- Weight loss or loss of appetite. Just like humans, when pets do not feel well, they do not want to eat.
- Coughing or difficulty breathing could be caused by a few things, but keep in mind that cancer metastasizing through the lungs present with the same symptoms.
- Unusually strong or abnormal odors. Cancer of the mouth, nose or anal regions can cause a very strong foul odor, it could also make chewing or swallowing difficult.
- Abnormal discharges. The gross stuff like blood, pus, vomiting, diarrhea or any other abnormal discharge should always be examined by a veterinarian.
- Depression, lethargy, the unwillingness to get up and exercise. If your pet isn’t acting like himself, talk to your veterinarian. Your pet is trying to tell you he/she doesn’t feel well without the ability to speak.
Now that you realize your pet can get cancer just like you can, here are a couple easy steps to help keep your pet healthy and reduce the risk of pet cancer.
- Most importantly, visit your veterinarian at least twice a year for wellness exams. Your veterinarian is highly trained in examining your pet from nose to tail. He/she might be able to find a problem before it becomes too serious. Don’t forget that your pet ages 7 years to your 1 year. Imagine what would change if you didn’t see a doctor in 7+ years!
- Spay and neuter your pet. I know what you’re thinking “that doesn’t make a difference!” but yes it does! Dogs who aren’t spayed before experiencing their 2nd heat cycle are 26% more likely to develop mammary cancer during their lifetime. Cats spayed before 6 months of age are SEVEN times less likely to develop mammary cancer. Neutering male pets significantly reduces their chance of prostate cancer and eliminates their chance of testicular cancer.
- Feeding your dog a healthy diet, providing regular exercise and avoiding known carcinogens will help reduce the cancer risk.
Now that you feel informed, do you find yourself wondering “how can I help spread awareness?” – let me tell you how. Each November we design a t-shirt about pet cancer to help raise awareness. All proceeds from sales are donated to Morris Animal Foundation (the leading researcher institute in pet cancer). Additionally, for a more fun and exciting way to help spread awareness, join us in April at our Hot Diggity Dog Jog event where we host a 1 mile fun run and a 5K benefitting Morris Animal Foundation. Lastly, please help us spread the word by sharing this information, and let’s all do our part in trying to prevent this deadly disease from taking the lives of our furry companions.