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Early Cancer Detection Gives Room for Hope

Why is it that cancer tends to scare us more than any other disease? One friend of mine put it this way, "It's like the shark in the movie Jaws. You know it always might be there, but there's never a disturbance in the water until it shows its ugly head." I couldn't agree more. We are always more afraid of threats we can't see coming, even more so in our furry kids, because they can't or won't tell us when something is wrong.

Cancer has been called the great pretender due to its amazing way to look like anything. In veterinary school we learned that cancer is on the list of possible diagnoses for almost any symptom we see (GI upset, lameness, bad breath, etc.). Something potentially serious that can look like anything? If that doesn't scare you, I don't know what will.

But there are good reasons to be hopeful here. Science, much of it funded by Morris Animal Foundation, is finding new tools to peer into the darkness and catch cancer earlier, increasing the chances of a successful outcome. One very exciting area of research is using the genetic code of our animals to estimate the probability that a particular dog or cat might develop a specific type of cancer. The beauty of this tool is that owners are empowered to look early and often for that kind of cancer. If you know there is a good chance of Jaws coming up from below, this kind of knowledge is a really good flashlight.

Below are some early warning signs of Cancer in Dogs and Cats. If you see one or more of these symptoms in your pet, contact your veterinarian.

10 Warning Signs of Cancer in Dogs*

  1. cancer prevention in dogsRecent lump or bump that persists or grows in size
  2. Sores or wounds that do not heal
  3. Weight loss with or without change in food intake
  4. Change in appetite or water consumption
  5. Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  6. Offensive odors
  7. Difficulty eating, chewing, grasping or swallowing food
  8. Reluctance to exercise or loss of stamina
  9. Persistent lameness
  10. Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating 

10 Warning Signs of Cancer in Cats*

  1. prevent cancer in catsRecent lump or bump that persists or grows in size
  2. Sores or wounds that do not heal
  3. Weight loss with or without change in food intake
  4. Change in appetite or water consumption
  5. Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  6. Offensive odors
  7. Difficulty eating, chewing, grasping or swallowing food
  8. Persistent lameness
  9. Increased sleeping, reclusive behavior
  10. Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating *adapted from Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center

There is no substitute for regular and thorough veterinary checks, but as pet owners, we can do a lot more at home. Understand the warning signs listed above. Practice putting your hands on every inch of your pet every week. They love the massage and you can quickly become familiar with any lump they may have, as well as find anything that develops. Learn what you can about what cancer in our pets looks like.

Learn more about Morris Animal Foundation and how we are helping pets like yours.

*adapted from Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center

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