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Cancer in Pets

You feel a lump on your dog; your cat has not been eating properly and is losing weight. You check with your veterinarian, and after tests and laboratory analysis, the diagnosis is cancer. At that point, the world spins, and you aren’t sure how or why this happened.

What Causes Cancer in Pets?

Information provided below is shared from Texas A&M University, College of Veterinary Medicine, the University of Pennsylvania, Veterinary Hospital staff, and the Morris Animal Foundation. Cancer accounts for almost half of the deaths of pets over 10 years of age. Environmental factors increase the risk of cancer in pets; for example, there is mounting evidence that environmental tobacco smoke (secondhand smoke) increases the risk of lymphoma in dogs and cats as well as oral squamous cell carcinoma in cats. Viruses, parasites, genetic predisposition, and some chemical exposure all can be factors in your pet developing cancer. Dogs and cats have a higher incidence of tumors than humans, and dogs have 35 times as much skin cancer, 4 times as many breast tumors, 8 times as much bone cancer, and twice as high an incidence of leukemia.

The Morris Animal Foundation conducts extensive research into the causes and treatments for pet cancers. It is estimated that almost 50% of dogs over the age of 10 will develop cancer, and approximately 1 in 4 dogs will, at some stage in their life, develop cancer. Check out Morris Animal Foundation to learn more.

Types of Cancer

There are over 100 types of animal cancers; here are a few of the more common cancers:

  • Skin: generally found in older dogs, especially in white cats.
  • Mammary Gland: 50% of all breast tumors in dogs and greater than 85% of all breast tumors in cats are malignant. It is important to spay your female pet at the age suggested by our doctors to greatly reduce the risk of such cancer.
  • Head and Neck: Tumors of the nose and mouth are more common in dogs than cats. Be sure to watch for tumors on the gums, bleeding, odor, or difficulty eating because these may be signs of cancer. Other signs to watch for are bleeding from the nose, difficulty breathing, or facial swelling.
  • Lymphoma: This is a cancer of lymph nodes in the body and causes them to enlarge.
  • Testicles: While rare in cats, it is common in dogs. To reduce this risk, neutering your pet is recommended.
  • Abdominal: These cancers are common yet difficult to diagnose early. Signs of these include weight loss, abdominal swelling, collapse, and anemia.
  • Bone: These tumors are seen most often in large breed dogs and dogs older than seven years and rarely in cats. Pain, lameness, and swelling are common signs seen.

What Do I Do?

If you find lumps or notice any of the signs or symptoms above, schedule an appointment with our office. Tell the doctor what you see and about your concerns. The doctor will compare this information with the information from your pet’s last annual physical and conduct tests from there. Should the diagnosis indeed be cancer, a veterinary oncologist, a specialist in cancer, may be recommended. Working with you, our doctors and staff, as well as the oncologist, will identify a course of treatment for your pet. Remember, you are your pet’s best advocate. For more detailed and valuable information, go to: morrisanimalfoundation.org, vetcancersociety.org, or fetchacure.org.

Worms in Cats

Types of Worms in Cats:

Roundworms: These worms infect the intestines and are the most common found in cats. When seen, they look like cooked spaghetti.

Tapeworms: Segments look like rice grains, and you may see them crawling around the rectum. They come from fleas and are found more often in older cats and cats that hunt. After your cat is treated for tapeworms, you need to treat for fleas to prevent reinfestations.

Hookworms: About two inches long and appear hook-shaped. They can damage the lining of the intestine because they feed on blood from the small intestine. To diagnose, bring in a fecal sample at your next visit. The doctors can also discuss this with you.

Prevention of Worms:

The best way to prevent worms is to limit your cat’s access to the outside, so they do not interact with potentially infected wildlife. Feed your cat cooked foods, use multiple litter boxes if you have several cats, use worm preventatives recommended by your veterinarian, and have regular veterinary check-ups.

Be sure you bring in a fecal sample when you next visit the veterinarian to rule out any worm infestation. At that time, the doctor will discuss your cat’s lifestyle and can make some recommendations for you to either eliminate the presence of worms or to prevent infestations.


by assistant editor, Roo, aka, Super Searcher With a Nose for News.

More Super Noses!

I don’t know where humans would be without dogs! I know I work very hard to help my human, and so many other hard-working dogs do as well. For example, my mom and I train as a team to help identify buried human remains. Sometimes, there may only be a tooth, but dogs trained as I am can find that tooth and help locate someone who was missing.

Likewise, dogs working with ski patrollers are trained to quickly locate someone buried under snow. Andrew Pinkham, a ski patroller at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, says, “there is no technology in the world that can compete with a dog’s nose (if you get buried).” The Sugar Bowl and Alpine Meadow’s ski patrol members estimate that their dogs can find someone buried up to 10-12 feet. I learned that studies show that 93% of avalanche victims are recovered alive if they are found within 15 minutes, and after that, survivability drops significantly.

Good News, Not-So-Good News!

Dogs like avalanche response dogs are dogs most people would not want to live with. They need a job to do, or they will find one such as chewing the furniture. These dogs have a very high drive and would not always make good pets. Nevertheless, they are great at what they do, but it requires lots of training for both dog and handler to become an effective team.


The dogs start training by playing hide and seek to find human scent under the show. Eventually, dogs learn to differentiate between surface scents, people around them, and those scents coming from under the snow. It takes two to three years to earn the coveted “validated” title awarded by the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, which means they are qualified to participate in search and rescue operations. Currently, Sugar Bowl has two dogs that are validated and two that are working toward validation, and Alpine Meadows has three validated dogs with three more in training.

The next time you go skiing, ask the Ski Patrol if they have avalanche dogs on site. Rest assured, they will search for you if ever the need arises. Remember, this is a game for them.

Travel with Dogs

Some dogs love to go in the car with you, and some don’t. You may have a new best friend and aren’t sure how they will travel on a long car ride. We have a few suggestions.

  • If your dog is mellow, she will probably enjoy the road trip. If she panics at everything that moves, traveling will be tough for everyone. Just be sure your dog has sufficient space to lie down and relax. Take their favorite blanket or toy so they will feel comfortable.
  • Try a few test drives to see how she fares. Depending on how you feel about restraints, you might consider a crate or a specialized harness that clicks into the seat belt system. Talk with your veterinarian for ideas.
  • As you travel, stop every few hours so you can switch drivers and let the dog out for a good stretch, and to go to the bathroom. Consider packing water from home, so they don’t get an upset tummy while on the trip. A dog with an upset stomach is never a good traveling companion!
  • Plan ahead for overnight accommodations. One suggestion is to use www.bringfido.com to locate pet-friendly hotels. There are other services, so pick the one that fits your needs. Most importantly, Have Fun!

May Dates of Note

May is National Pet Month. At this time, we celebrate the joy that pets bring to people as well as the joy people give to pets. Of course, I think this should be celebrated all year.

National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day – May 9. As you prepare your family to handle disasters, include your pet in that planning. The American Red Cross, Humane Society, FEMA, and many others have outstanding preparedness guidance to help you prepare for your pet.

Mother’s Day – May 10. Celebrate all those wonderful mothers or women in your life who support and value you.

Memorial Day – May 25. This day is set aside to remember and honor the men and women in uniform who protect and serve our country. Remember also the special dogs who serve various operations. This day is also the official kick-off to summer. Have a great summer, and stay safe!

Happy Mother's Day!