Unfortunately, cancer ( also known as neoplasia ) is similarly as common in our pets as in people. Cancer is an abnormal excessive growth of a cell line that does not respond to the usual "checks and balances" for cell growth. Cancer causes its pathology by decreasing the function of the organ from which it arises or the function of other body organs.
We do not know the specific cause of most pet cancers. However, it has been determined that most cancers have a genetic predisposition. A few animal cancers are directly related to some viruses such as the Feline Leukemia Virus and the Bovine Leukemia Virus. We know that Bostons and Boxers are predisposed to skin mast cell tumors. Golden Retrievers are vulnerable to hemangiosarcomas. Giant breeds have a higher incidence of bone tumors.
Pet cancer is treatable. As in people treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Many skin cancers can be cured by wide and deep surgical excision. Chemotherapy and radiation can put a cancer in remission. Remission means the cancer is not continuing to grow and often shrinks. The intent of remission is to improve the quality and duration of life. Remission does not equate to cure.
Early Detection is Crucial
As with most cancers early detection is crucial to long term success. Signs of cancer can include unexplained weight loss, anemia, chronic diarrhea and vomiting, labored breathing, coughing, lameness and skin lumps. Obviously, these same signs can be associated with non-cancerous conditions. Your veterinarian can usually establish a diagnosis based upon the pet's history, physical exam and laboratory tests that may include a biopsy. Once a diagnosis has been established treatment can begin depending upon the owner's wishes. Most veterinarians are biased toward the quality of life. As an owner, ask lots of questions and make informed decisions.
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