Is it possible to treat cancer in dogs?

For the last 20 years veterinary medicine has made tremendous progress on diagnostic procedures and treatments for canine diseases. Ultramodern medical technologies have made possible the treatment of diseases that were once considered to have no cure. Cancer is a dreaded word. In humans and in pets, this serious health concern can have a tremendous impact on the quality of life of both humans and animals. With the advancement in veterinary medicine, dogs with cancer were given a fighting chance to live as dog owners now have other options aside from taking an act of mercy of putting the dog to sleep.

Several types of cancers can affect dogs. Cancer develops from the abnormal growth of cells. Neoplasia which means new growth is the clinical name of cancer. Neoplasia can be malignant or benign. Unlike a benign tumor that grows locally and can be removed with surgery, a malignant tumor has no defined edges thus it can spread aggressively, invade and destroy cells on its path. As there are no clear boundaries, removing all the cancer cells through surgery is rather impossible. There are several types of cancers that can occur in dogs. Osteosarcoma is a bone tumor that commonly affects giant breeds. About 50% of canine cancers are of the skin. Skin tumors that can be pea sized or vast lumps are prevalent in Bullmastiff, Boston terriers, English setters and Boxers. Mast cell tumors commonly grow on the trunk and anywhere on the skin of the dog. These skin tumors typically spread to the lymph nodes, liver, spleen and other vital organs. The dog will now develop a malignant cancer known as lymphoma. Mammary cancer is prevalent in older female dogs that were not spayed. This malignant tumor can affect one or more of the mammary glands. This type of cancer is known for its rapid growth. Hemangiosarcoma is an aggressive cancer that occurs in the blood vessels and affects the skin, the heart and the spleen.

The exact cause of cancer is unknown although hereditary factors, the environment, hormones, dietary habits and exposure to toxins were identified to increase the risk of acquiring the disease. Cancer is more common in aging dogs. Deaths of dogs ten years and over in age are usually attributed to cancer. The rapid spread of the malignant growth makes cancer a very serious disease. Dogs would have a better chance of survival if treatment is received while the disease is on the early stage. However, because cancer have unspecific symptoms it is very common for the disease to spread before the owner becomes aware of the pet’s condition.

Early and correct diagnosis is crucial for the survival of the pet. Once any abnormal growth and any change in behavior are noticed in the pet, the dog owner has to take the pet to a veterinary facility for diagnostic tests. Not all types of cancer can be cured but some types are known to respond to treatment so that aggressive growth is controlled and the ailing pet is spared from too much pain. Radiation and chemotherapy are the most common treatment options for cancer. Surgery is another treatment option but this would be dependent on the location of the cancer. Medications are also given to the ailing pet. Benign tumors can be surgically removed. Unfortunately, even with the significant advancement in veterinary medicine, a definitive treatment that will totally cure cancer is yet to be discovered. Cryosurgery and hyperthermia were proven to effectively manage cancer symptoms. Other conventional and natural therapies have managed to boost the immune functions of the dog and slow down cancerous growth. Veterinary science is making headway in discovering the ultimate cure for canine cancer. Until the treatment is discovered, dog owners would make do with the available treatments that can give the pet a short period of extra life.

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