Cancer In Dogs And Cats: Everything You Need To Know About Prognosis And Therapy

Cancer is also a disease of dogs and cats that is more common in old age. This phenomenon is increasingly common in veterinary practice.

Cancer is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cells in the body – and this can happen in any tissue: skin, bones, muscles, or internal organs. And even white blood cells – cells that protect against pathogens – can develop cancer.

Benign tumors usually grow in one place in the body and may even go away on their own. On the other hand, malignant tumors metastasize, that is, they release cells into the blood and lymph vessels, which then attach to another point in the body and form new tumors.

However, there are gradations between them: even benign tumors can metastasize at some point, and malignant tumors can remain inactive for a long time. Unfortunately, cancer is unpredictable.

If cancers are surgically removed, they are relatively likely to return. However, many animals also undergo cancer surgery to improve their quality of life.

How Does Your Animal Carry Cancer?

Tumor cells require a lot of energy to grow, preferably in the form of sugar and proteins. This leads to the depletion of the animal. For this reason, cancer patients should receive a diet rich in fat, since tumor cells cannot metabolize fat as well and do not “steal” it from the animal patient.

In cancer, your animal is less productive due to a lack of energy. And its immune system is also less capable of fighting infectious diseases.

In the lungs, liver, or spleen, tumors of a certain size interfere with the actual functioning of these organs. This can lead to shortness of breath, liver failure, and many other complex clinical presentations. Tumors of the blood vessels can cause the animal to lose a small amount or suddenly a very large amount of blood. Both pose different problems.

Tumors in hormone-producing organs such as the thyroid, adrenal glands, kidneys, or pancreas produce too much or too little of these hormones and lead to serious problems such as hypoglycemia or blood clotting disorders.

Cancer in Dogs: Bumps on the Skin are Most Common

The most common tumors in dogs are skin tumors, and about 40 percent of these are cancerous. The concept of waiting and watching to see if a tumor continues to grow is now completely outdated: with a syringe, your veterinarian can “cut” cells from a node and look at them directly under a microscope. It is low cost, low effort, and provides an initial indication of which cells the tumor originates from.

In some cases, it is even possible to make a claim that the cells are malignant. Since it is not only skin cells that can degenerate, mast cell tumors and lymphoma, described below, can also lurk in the skin.

Cellular research is only meaningless in the case of female breast tumors: this type of cancer is usually a mixture of benign and malignant tumors. This means that if you happen to catch benign cells with the needle, the lump next door may still be malignant. Therefore, breast tumors should always be removed completely.

Tumors of the Spleen and Liver

Large breeds of dogs in particular often develop tumors in the spleen and liver as they get older – this is quite rare in cats. Spleen tumors often develop in blood vessels (hemangiosarcoma) and form large or small cavities filled with blood. If they break, the dog may bleed from the inside.

Therefore, spleen tumors should be carefully checked or surgically removed. The entire spleen is usually removed.

It is not so easy with liver tumors – it is impossible to survive without a liver. Individual lobes of the liver can be removed, but this procedure is much riskier than removing the spleen.

The most common liver tumors are metastases from other organs. In second place are vascular tumors. Malignant tumors of the liver and biliary tract tissue are the third most common.

Lymphoma: What is it Really?

In lymphoma, the bone marrow produces more and more immature white blood cells (lymphocytes), which migrate to different tissues and cause problems there. In dogs, mainly all internal organs (multicentric) are affected, cats, as a rule, suffer from a form of damage only to the gastrointestinal tract. The animals’ exhibit symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, weakness, diarrhea, and emaciation.

Lymphoma is no longer a death sentence these days. This is because it can be treated with chemotherapy. Although expensive and time-consuming, animals have significantly fewer side effects than humans. In dogs, depending on the course of the disease, you can add up to a year of life, in cats even more.

Lung Tumors are Mainly Metastases

Most of the tumors found in the lungs are metastases from other cancers to other parts of the body. A tumor that grows only in the lungs is rare.

If your veterinarian detects cancer in your dog or cat, an x-ray of the lungs is necessary for most types of tumors. Because if your animal already has lung metastases, the prognosis is much worse. Thus, you can decide on the operation with completely different basic knowledge.

Horrible Brain Tumor

A brain tumor that can only be detected by MRI, unfortunately, has a very poor prognosis: depending on the severity of the symptoms, animals may live with it for a while – or they will need to be cured relatively quickly. Some clinics are gradually starting to remove brain tumors with surgery. However, these interventions are still very rare in veterinary medicine and are therefore associated with a high risk.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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