This page is dedicated to Murphy Feeney, beloved canine companion and friend.
Cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death among dogs over the age of 6 in the United States.
Almost 50% of older dogs and 32% of cats will die of cancer. (Animal Health Survey, Morris Animal Foundation, 1998)
Some cancers can be successfully treated if diagnosed early.
- Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
- Sores that do not heal
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
- Difficulty eating or swallowing
- Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
- Persistent lameness or stiffness
- Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating
Pet Cancer Resources
- American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Pet Cancer Primer
- Cancer Care – Cornell University Hospital for Animals
- Colorado State University Animal Cancer Center
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine – Pet Owner’s Guide to Cancer (Video)
- Dog Cancer Rates by Breed
- Many of the most popular dog breeds are especially susceptible to developing cancer
- OncoLink Vet – Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania – Common Questions About Veterinary Oncology
- OncoLink Vet – Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania – So Your Pet Has Cancer
In September 2009, our beloved canine, Coltrane, was diagnosed with Grade II Mast Cell Cancer by our stellar veterinary teams at Kingston Animal Hospital, led by Michael Tokiwa, DVM and Roxane Collins, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVS (Surgery) at Animerge in Raritan, New Jersey. We had seen two other veterinarians from two different veterinary practices in early 2009 regarding the hard lump in his thigh. Both vets felt the lump and told us to “wait and see.” The synonyms of this tactic are “benign neglect” and “watchful waiting”. We just didn’t feel right about this 3 centimeter hard lump in our dog’s body, so we found a new vet who, we hoped, would tell us exactly what we were dealing with and whether or not we needed to move forward with treatment based on proactive diagnostics. We found Michael Tokiwa, DVM of Kingston Animal Hospital, who told us that there is indeed an inexpensive (about $100.) diagnostic procedure instead of “wait and see” called fine needle aspiration (FNA), or fine needle biopsy. This technique is used to collect cells from solid tissue and to harvest free fluid from sites where it has accumulated. It is far less invasive than biopsy and does not require anesthesia. Fine needle aspiration of Coltrane’s lump revealed an overabundance of mast cells. See this informative page on Canine Mast Cell Tumors. The results of this fine needle aspiration would serve to strap us in to the wildest, most frightening roller coaster ride of disease, treatment and healing that we had ever embarked upon: canine cancer. If we heeded our first two vet’s advice, I might be writing about our dead dog. Our Veterinary Oncologist, Kathy Kazmierski of Garden State Veterinary Specialists told us on our first consultation with her, “the wait and see vets keep me very busy with late stage cancers.”
Don’t wait. Aspirate. If you find a lump, bump, or unusual growth on your pets body, ask your vet to perform a fine needle aspiration. Unless your veterinarian is BOARD CERTIFIED in Veterinary Oncology or Internal Medicine, she/he does not have the skill to diagnose suspicious lumps and bumps by sight or feel alone. Please! Don’t wait. Aspirate.
Other tools for diagnosing cancer include: surgical biopsies, survey radiography (X-rays), CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound. If your pet is displaying any of the early warning signs of cancer, consult your veterinarian. Some cancers can be successfully treated if diagnosed early.