Dealing with Cancer in Dogs

One of the most important assets we possess is our health, but it’s also something that is highly vulnerable, particularly as we age. When a disease like cancer occurs, what follows is often a frightening, uphill battle. This is true, not only for humans, but also for our dogs, who typically progress much more rapidly than we do, and don’t have access to the same cutting-edge cancer treatments found in human medicine. Fortunately, a number of veterinary research efforts in here in Fort Collins have been making good progress to better diagnose and treat pet cancer, particularly in pets with lymphoma, which is one of the most common and often fatal types of cancer.

Symptoms of Concern
Many of the same types of symptoms that raise red flags in humans are also cause for concern when seen in dogs. Since dogs with cancer cannot easily communicate to their owner that something is wrong, humans must carefully watch their behavior, keep track of any symptoms, and alert their veterinarian as soon as possible.

Dogs are particularly vulnerable to lymphoma, which is one of the most common cancers seen in both dogs and cats. Fortunately pet owners in Fort Collins and Denver have access to some of the country’s leading research initiatives for the diagnosis and treatment of pet lymphoma and other cancers.

Lymphoma in dogs most often mirrors that of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in humans, although there are many different forms and subtypes. Certain dog breeds, including Boxers, Bulldogs, Golden Retrievers, Saint Bernards, Basset Hounds, and Airedale and Scottish Terriers are more susceptible than other breeds. Symptoms of dog lymphoma typically include:

• Enlarged lymph nodes
• Weakness
• Lack of Appetite
• Lethargy
• Weight loss

How Pet Lymphoma is Diagnosed
Veterinarians today can diagnose pet lymphoma by following up on any symptoms reported by pet owners, such as swollen or enlarged lymph nodes, and by considering a pet’s medical history. If cancer is suspected, further bloodwork and biochemical testing can be done to see if enzyme levels and other markers indicate a probability of lymphoma. From there, X-rays and other forms of diagnostic imaging can be used to pinpoint the region where the cancer is located, and further confirmation can be made through a tissue biopsy.

Treating Dog Lymphoma
As with human cancers, dog lymphoma is often treated today with chemotherapy, which can be highly effective, but is associated with frequent visits, and in rare cases, serious side effects. Newer cutting-edge treatments like VetDC’s Tanovea™-CA1, which targets and attacks cancer cells specifically implicated in lymphoma, are being developed to benefit dogs with lymphoma. The selection of the most appropriate treatment is a decision the pet owner and veterinarian will often make together depending on how advanced the disease is, the age of the pet, and the pet’s overall health.

Unfortunately there is no cure today for lymphoma in dogs or cats. However many pet owners who are serious about increasing their pet’s chances of remission while maintaining a good quality of life will increasingly seek out veterinary oncologists who specialize in diagnosing and treating pet cancer. These specialists often collaborate closely with veterinary research institutions like the Flint Animal Cancer Center in Fort Collins, Colorado to help identify the most advanced and promising treatment options for dog lymphoma and other common pet cancers. With the help of these specialists and researchers, someday we will be able to treat pets just as effectively as we do in humans.