Just like the human beings, dogs are prone to cancer and the chances of the occurrence increase with advance in age. There has been an immense research undertaken to unearth common causes of cancer in dogs, but the results have not been precise and comprehensive. The causes are varied, and the manifestation of the diseases also varies from one dog to another.
Interests in cancer and research on treatments available have intensified in the last few decades, and there is the hope that there will be a breakthrough soon.
Veterinarians have drawn parallels between cancer in dogs and in human beings. The rate of infection is almost the same as in humans and so is the rate of death with approximately 20% of deaths in dogs blamed on cancer. As the age advances or as a dog hits the age of 10, there is a fifty percent of chance that it will succumb to cancer.
There is also no foretelling where cancer will strike; almost every part of the body is prone to cancer although there are some areas that are more predisposed. It begins as a small tumour before becoming cancerous, and if left untreated, death comes in fast.
Symptoms of Cancer in Dogs
The most common symptom is the existence of lumps or bumps on various places of the body. Not all of these can be cancerous as there are instances when a dog will develop warts and cysts that might be mistaken for cancerous lumps. However, it is not easy to tell whether a particular lump is cancerous or not. An extraction of cells from the lump through a process referred to as Aspiration would be an effective way, but this can only be done by an expert.
Persistent coughing and sneezing can also be a significant symptom of cancer. Although there are other diseases that are manifested through coughs and sneezes, if it is acute, this should be a cause for alarm particularly if there is bloody discharge coming out from the mouth. A skin disease is another telltale especially if chronic in nature. If the skin disease keeps recurring and does not heal easily, a veterinarian should be consulted.
Bad breath is also a common symptom of oral cancer. Others main symptoms are loss of appetite, general weakness and sleepiness, weight loss and blood in the urine. As most of these symptoms are prevalent in other common diseases, it is crucial to consult a veterinarian for occasional checkups.
Common Types of Cancer in Dogs
There are several types of cancers in dogs, but there are some cases, which are more debilitating and fatal. Lymphoma is the most commonly seen cancer in dogs just as in humans. It is a type of cancer that destroys white blood cells greatly harbouring the dog’s immune system.
Oral melanoma is another common dog cancer that affects the mouth area. It is one of the most common types that affecting approximately 20% of dogs diagnosed with cancer. There are breeds that are most prone, and it is manifested through the development of complications in areas surrounding the throat and the tongue.
Mammary carcinoma is a version of breast cancer. It affects older dogs and is a result of hormonal imbalance.
Soft tissue sarcoma is another common cancer in dogs and manifests itself through tumours in connective tissues. It mostly affects the legs and chest as well as the top layer of the skin. It takes a long time to spread and can be undetected for a long period of time.
One of the most difficult to detect is osteosarcoma which affects bones. Due to its complicated nature it is often mistaken for arthritis and maybe treated as so for a long period of time. It is a painful disease that weakens the health of the dog. If not detected early, it spreads fast and is also life threatening.
Diagnosing Cancer in Dogs
The non-specific nature of symptoms of cancer in dogs makes it hard to diagnose. Usually cancer can be misdiagnosed and treated as just another ailment. For instance; the liver cancer often leading to loss of appetite, general tiredness and loss of weight, but it can be mistaken for something else. With the technological advancement, it is possible to diagnose cancer with certainty.
X-rays are the most common methods of diagnosing, and CT and MRI are preferred to get a three-dimensional view of the affected tissues. Diagnosis can also be done through ultrasound imaging when it comes to solid organs. The same is used to attain precision when extracting body fluids and cells in tumours for testing.
Other at-home-diagnosis methods include keeping a tab of the dogs eating or sleeping habits and being vigilant of any sudden changes. However, proper and precise diagnosis can only be done by a veterinarian.
Treating Cancer in Dogs
Treatment of cancer in dogs is difficult, but possible if detected early. The most common treatment method is the surgical removal of the affected tissues to prevent further growth. The focus of such a surgery is the cancer, but the surrounding areas have to be removed. An incomplete excision can result in further spread with fatal consequences.
Tumours can be removed through electrocautery, which simply refers to the burning of the affected area by using electricity. This is a method that works best with benign tumours. Modern techniques employ the use of lasers.
Chemotherapy is another treatment method of cancer and is used for both control and prevention of further spread of cancerous cells. It is highly complicated and has serious side effects.
Home Remedies For Cancer in Dogs
Home remedies for cancer in dogs are not encouraged, but they work best in supplementing veterinary care. A healthy diet remains the best remedy as it aids in replenishing dogs’ strength and providing other helpful nutrients. Animal health experts recommend a diet free of carbohydrates and sugars, but rich in fish oil, vitamins and minerals combined with powerful immune boosters.
Supplements such as vitamin C and E can play a vital role in hampering the growth of cancer cells. Other experts have recommended the use of green tea, which is known as a natural booster to the immune system even in human beings.
Another crucial home remedy for cancer in dogs is maintaining healthy and positive attitudes. Just like humans, dogs are prone to emotional factors and are sensitive to their owners’ wellbeing. Maintaining optimism gives the dog a sense of security and will go a long way in ensuring the dog stays optimistic too.