Scary fact: An estimated 25% of dogs and 20% of cats will contract some form of cancer during their lives.
There are various kinds of cancer, and different breeds are associated with higher risks of certain kinds of cancer. It can even pose a higher risk depending on where you live.
Dobermans and Bull terriers are more prone to certain types of skin cancer, for example, and areas with strong sunlight have a higher average cancer rate for pets. There are so many kinds of cancers that even listing them is beyond the scope of this article, but there are some commonsense things you can do to prevent your pet developing them.
The Good: Cancer prevention
There are certain steps you can take to reduce the chance of your pet contracting cancer or at the very least catch it early enough to treat it effectively.
The main cause of cancer in pets appears to be genetic. Research your pet’s breed, ascertain what they’re prone to, and keep an eye on open for anything out of the ordinary. If you’re in any doubt, get ‘em to the vet.
In cats, get your cat vaccinated for the feline leukemia virus, one of the few contagious forms of cancer.
Environmental pollution is a big factor, so if you live in a risky area, consider moving or installing air filters. Also, if you smoke cigarettes, stop or switch to electronic forms. Animals are vulnerable to passive smoking, too. At the very least, don’t smoke around your pets.
If your dog is prone to soaking up the sun, and you live in a sunny state like Florida or Texas, try and keep them indoors or under shade for the hottest part of the day (11am to 2pm). Cats with white fur or white spots on ears or nose should be kept indoors as much as possible. Pet sunscreens are available, so use them to provide an extra layer of protection.
Ask your vet about any risks that apply to either your particular area or your pet’s breed. And once again, do your research.
In case the worst happens
Pet cover won’t stop your pet developing cancer, but if your fur-baby does have it, the cover will certainly lighten the financial load of treatment. Medical science has made massive advances in the treatment of cancer, but they’re expensive advances. The costs can add up really quickly. And do you really want to explain to Junior that your beloved family pet had to be put down because you couldn’t afford treatment? Plan ahead with your animals to make sure you are able to provide for them when they need it most.
The Bad: The big C and what it means
Many forms of cancer are treatable. Once your pet has been diagnosed, your vet will explain what your options are. These will involve either treatment, management or making your pet as comfortable as possible while the disease takes its course.
Treatment can be traumatic for you and your pet. As mentioned above, it can also be financially tough. Surgery, chemo or radiation treatment will severely impact your dog’s mood, and may involve long periods of recovery. Try to avoid showing your stress to your dog and be as loving as possible to him while he is going through this. You want to compensate for the trauma and discomfort by making the rest of his life as enjoyable as possible. It’s most important to leave him in no doubt that he’s loved, protected and appreciated.
Management of the condition means that it’s not curable, but the symptoms can be reduced. This is actually fairly common, and many pets can live a good few years with these conditions. Your vet will likely provide you with medication to handle any particularly unpleasant symptoms. Again, try and make their lives as comfortable as possible. Regular, mild exercise can often help with the management of these conditions.
The Heart-Breaking: Rainbow bridge
The last option is when your pet has a terminal case. There is either no treatment, the condition has been diagnosed too late, or it’s an aggressive form of cancer that has advanced too quickly. The most difficult decision you will face is when to send your pet to Rainbow Bridge. Decide in consultation with your vet when it’s going to be time to say goodbye. Remember that as long as your pet can walk, eat and remain continent, and is not in pain, they’ll still derive a lot of enjoyment from their life.
When deterioration becomes too advanced, consider having a Goodbye Day, and let your pet’s favorite people come and visit, make them their favorite meal, etc., and arrange with your vet to painlessly put your pet to sleep. Remember that death is the cost of all life, and it’s likely that you gave your pet a good one. Do not let your beloved friend suffer needlessly because you are unable to take that final step.
Cancer in pets is a real and fairly common threat. Get insurance, do your research, and don’t be afraid to get your dog to a vet the instant you see something out of the ordinary. With cancer, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.