NOVEMBER IS PET CANCER AWARENESS MONTH
Who knew? I mean who would think that we should only be aware of pet cancer one month a year. Fortunately, my twitter feed, the ever present, non resting source of all things important and not, let me know. Now I'm letting you know. November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month.
Now that we are all aware, I guess we should do something about it. Dogs and cats can get cancer just as their owners can. Sometimes it is obvious when a pet has cancer, sometimes it's not so obvious. What are some of the signs you should look for?
- Weight loss or changes in appetite
- Vomiting (not once or twice but chronic vomiting)
- Diarrhea (see above)
- Lumps and bumps in the skin or under the skin
- Changes in urinary habits
- Changes in drinking habits
- Pale gums
- Distended abdomen
- Lameness or swollen limbs
There, I've mentioned something that most pets do at least once in a while, enough to make us all crazy. So what should we do? Well, first of all a regular physical examination for every pet is a must. Discuss any concerns with your veterinarian. Many cancers (along with other health problems) can be picked up with a good history and physical exam and some very minor and inexpensive testing. Once there is a diagnosis, then a treatment plan can be formulated.
Rather than go through a list of tests and diseases that will put most of us to sleep, I thought I would just share some cases with you that have come through our hospital in the past few months.
Let's start with lumps and bumps. Here are two different cases. From looking at them can you tell which is cancer and which is not?
The first is a mammary mass on a cat. This could be potentially bad news as the majority of these masses are malignant and that is certainly what we though going into surgery. Fortunately for this little kitty, that was not the case, it was benign and surgery cured the cat. This little mass on the inside of a dog's let looks innocuous. However, a fine needle aspirate showed abnormal cells and granules, suggestive of a mast cell carcinoma. We removed it and sent it for a confirmation biopsy. Fortunately we got it early and removed the whole thing. To date, no further treatment was needed. Here is a picture of the slide that we made of the aspirate. It's what we are looking at when we run to the back to use the microscope.
The big purple spots are cancerous mast cells. The little purple spots are mast cell granules. This is why we aspirate all masses, we don't want to miss something like this while it is still treatable.