Annual Exams May Help Veterinarians Detect Early Stages of Cancer

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National Pet Cancer Awareness Month in November is a time designated to prompt people to be aware of pet cancer. The Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) suggests that one way to possibly prevent cancer is to follow a proactive approach, which involves pet owners taking their pets in for routine examinations.

. Approximately one in four dogs and one in five cats will develop cancer in their lifetime, according to the Animal Cancer Foundation (ACF).

Animals are not immune to cancer. Approximately one in four dogs and one in five cats will develop cancer in their lifetime, according to the Animal Cancer Foundation (ACF). These statistics emphasize the importance of supporting National Pet Cancer Awareness Month in November, a time designated to prompt people to be aware of pet cancer. The Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) suggests that one way to possibly prevent cancer is to follow a proactive approach, which involves pet owners taking their pets in for routine examinations.

The goal of annual wellness exams is to address preventative diseases like obesity, detect the early stages of diseases, such as cancer, and, most importantly, help ensure pets enjoy a healthy life. Detecting cancer early could mean the tumor hasn’t spread to other parts of the body, possibly giving the pet a better prognosis and more treatment options.

“Annual exams pick up cancer earlier, so we have more options available,” said TVMA member Andrew Novosad, DVM, DACVIM, who serves as the head of the oncology service at Sugar Land Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Care in Sugar Land, Texas, near Houston. “And there are options today that weren’t available five years ago, even in human medicine. It’s a really exciting time in veterinary medicine because medicine is progressing so quickly.”

Veterinarians may discover cancer at routine exams by feeling for lumps and bumps or drawing blood, which is usually prompted by learning about vague signs such as excessive fatigue, drastic changes in appetite or appearing pale. However, some cancers are only visible with X-rays or ultrasound, and in almost all cases, cancer must be examined microscopically to identify the specific type of cancer. The earlier veterinarians proceed with these diagnostic steps, the sooner they can establish treatment plans.

While early detection may give pets more treatment options and a better chance of survival, prognoses depend on several factors, including the type of cancer, its severity and location. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy (some comes in pill form and can be given at home), radiation and immunotherapy. Each modality serves a different purpose. Surgery may provide a complete cure; chemotherapy can extend positive quality-of-life; radiation is often a supplement to other forms of treatment that aims to eradicate remaining cancer cells in the area treated; and immunotherapy involves therapeutic vaccines for malignant melanoma, lymphoma and osteosarcoma that are used in combination with other treatment methods.

Taking pets in for routine examinations, educating yourself on the disease and contributing to oncology research and advocacy organizations are all crucial to the fight against pet cancer. Veterinary professionals can help you prevent and/or slow the progression of cancer if they can identify early signs of cancer and recommend an effective treatment plan to ensure a good quality-of-life for your pet. You can learn more about pet cancer by reviewing TexVetPets articles on this topic, including https://www.texvetpets.org/article/cancer/ and https://www.texvetpets.org/article/breast-cancer-in-pets/. When you’re in need of information on other pet health topics, such as clinic etiquette, zoonotic diseases, weight-loss plans and caring for senior pets, visit TexVetPets.org at https://www.texvetpets.org.

About the Texas Veterinary Medical Association
Founded in 1903, the Texas Veterinary Medical Association is a professional association composed of more than 3,700 veterinarians committed to protecting public health, promoting high educational, ethical and moral standards within the veterinary profession and educating the public about animal health and its relationship to human health. For more information, call 512/452-4224 or visit http://www.tvma.org.

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