Cancer Prevention and Survival
Important, must read tips on catching canine cancer before it catches you and your dog off-guard.
- Give your dog a daily or at least weekly physical exam. “Have your dog lie on his side and exam every inch of his skin, including the inside of his mouth and his feet,” says Mary MacQueen, owner of Golden Retriever Robin, a lymphoma survivor.
- Don’t forget the mouth. “Oral tumors can get quite large before anyone notices that the dog isn’t eating or starts bleeding from the mouth,” says veterinary oncologist Margaret McEntee. “Catch an oral tumor early and you have a lot more options.”
- Submit any lump or bump removed from your dog for a biopsy. “There are a whole range of tumor types but unless you submit it, you can’t confirm what it is exactly. It is very important to know what you are dealing with,” says McEntee.
- Know what the numbers mean. “If we tell someone median survival time is three months, that means half survive less, and half survive more. Averages can be skewed by dogs who lived very long or short, so the median is a better idea of the middle of the road,” says McEntee.
- Screen vulnerable breeds. “Taking your dog to the veterinarian yearly is like you having a physical every seven years. Cancer is more common in older dogs, so as your dog ages, consider twice-yearly visits with appropriate screening tests, such as abdominal ultrasounds and complete bloodwork,” says McEntee.
- Visit the experts—with a friend. While a general practitioner may be able to remove a simple early stage tumor, MacQueen recommends always visiting a specialist, if possible. “Go to the people who really know what they are doing around cancer,” she says, “And take someone with you when you visit the oncologist. You will feel shell-shocked and you are trying to do everything you can for your dog but you aren’t necessarily thinking clearly in that moment. Someone else taking notes for you can be a huge help when you try to remember what the doctor said.”
- Treat the whole dog. “People get myopic about the fact that a dog has cancer in, for example, the liver, and they forget all the other things they do nutritionally, holistically, and with pain management to make the whole process more comfortable,” says MacQueen.
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