November is the Pet Cancer Awareness Month.
Cancer in pets is common and unfortunately it is becoming more and more common too. Cancer is the most frequent cause of disease-related death in companion animals. One in three dogs develop cancer over their lifetime and one in two dogs over the age of 10 will develop cancer. These numbers are scary.
Cancer is a silence disease in many cases.
For example Layla, an 8 year old female Springer spaniel presented to her veterinary practice six weeks ago for her annual boosters. Her owners reported Layla as being well apart from maybe being a bit slower on her walks which her family had put down to the cold weather and Layla’s age, and they weren’t worried about it. On physical examination though, Layla was discovered to have moderate peripheral lymphadenopathy including her submandibular, prescapular and popliteal lymph nodes. Her abdominal palpation also revealed mild cranial organomegaly. Further investigations diagnosed Layla with multricentric diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Layla’s family were understandably shocked with this diagnosis but equally pleased that Layla is now being treated for her cancer, and it even turns out she is back to her crazy bouncy self on her forest walks!
Canine lymphoma is one of the most common neoplasms seen in the dog and compromises 7% to 24% of all canine neoplasias. More than 80% of dogs with lymphoma are diagnosed with the multicentric form, characterized by the presence of peripheral lymphadenopathy.
Most dogs with this disease present clinically well or with a diversity of nonspecific clinical signs, which many times are attributed to our pet´s aging.
In humans cancer screening saves thousands of lives each year and it can help detecting cancers at an early stage in some cases. It is important for us to try to identify and explore possible non-specific but unusual clinical signs or physical examination findings for a given patient. Promoting regular visits to the veterinary practice for active surveillance, especially for middle aged to senior patients is an excellent idea. Educating our patient’s family is also very important. Cancer is a multifactorial disease. Things like excess body weight, UV-light or secondary exposure to tobacco smoke have all been related to the development of cancer in pets. Our patients family may not be aware of these factors in pets and discussing things like this from the beginning will help our pets be overall healthier and happier!
HuangDi Nei Jing” once said:
“Before a disease occurs take preventative measures and once a disease occurs, prevent its progression.”
Lets keep helping our patients and their family achieve an early cancer detection!