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Cancer is a debilitating disease
affecting millions of Americans daily. The same is true for
animals, as approximately 50 percent of all dogs over the age of 10
will be diagnosed with some form of cancer. Being aware of the
possibility of cancer in your canine and having your veterinarian
perform regular checkups can help to ensure that you are doing the
best for your dog.
According to Dr. Heather Wilson,
assistant professor in oncology at the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), the most
common types of cancer in dogs is lymphoma (tumor of the lymph
nodes), osteosarcoma (tumor of the bones), and mast cell tumors
"Lymphoma most commonly affects the
lymph nodes, but can also affect other parts of the body such as
the liver, spleen, bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract, and the
central nervous system," explains Wilson. "This disease is
generally not curable, but is very treatable with
"Osteosarcoma is a bone tumor that
affects the limbs of large and giant breed dogs most often," says
Wilson. "These tumors are again generally not curable, but can be
treated with amputation of the affected limb and chemotherapy does
increase survival. However, most dogs will eventually succumb to
the disease if it spreads to the lungs."
Mast cell tumors commonly occur on
the skin and they are the most common type of malignant skin tumors
in dogs. Most of these tumors are removed and cured with surgery.
However, some are very aggressive and are so likely to spread that
chemotherapy must be integrated into the treatment protocol after
surgery. Other tumors may require radiation therapy if they are not
completely removed during surgery.
"Any dog can get cancer, but certain
breeds such as the Golden Retrievers, Boxers, German shepherds,
Rottweilers, and Bernese Mountain dogs are predisposed to many
forms of cancer," notes Wilson.
As cancer is so common in dogs,
annual geriatric exams with a veterinarian are strongly encouraged.
After a cancer diagnosis and treatment, Wilson recommends
monitoring the pet for recurrence every two to six months for three
years. The frequency of the checkups depends on the type of
It is important to regularly perform
at-home physical examinations on your pet. You should look for any
lumps, specifically around the lymph nodes in the neck. However,
not all tumors are visible; therefore, regular veterinary visits
are crucial to guarantee your pet's health.
While cancer can be extremely
stressful for owners and pets, the good news is that with the
amount of resources and specialists that are now available to treat
cancer in pets, owners now have the power to make educated and
responsible decisions to get their companion animals through this
illness. In recent decades, veterinary medicine has progressively
advanced to offer technology and treatment of human quality for
pets to help aid in cancer treatment and other
The Diagnostic Imaging and Cancer
Treatment Center (DICTC) at the CVM is one example of the new state
of the art facilities now available for companion animals. The
DICTC is set to open its doors in the next couple of months and it
will greatly improve the quality of care animal patients receive
due to the highly advanced capabilities of the new
"The DICTC will house advanced
imaging equipment that will help us find and monitor cancer at a
much earlier stage than was previously possible," explains Wilson.
"The earlier we can identify cancer the better we can treat it.
Additionally, the Tomotherapy unit will allow us to very precisely
treat hard to reach tumors in animals that we were previously
unable to treat because of their location, such as brain or lung
tumors. Additionally, we can treat multiple sites in the same
animal with relative ease allowing us to potentially treat dogs
with radiation or multiple mast cell tumors when previously this
was not possible."
nature makes it an important topic to research and learn more
about. However, cancer can be very complicated and hard to
comprehend. To learn more about cancer and how to treat it, please
visit the oncology section at the CVM website at
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