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How to Check Your Pet for Signs of Cancer

September 21, 2010 | 22,987 views
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woman petting her dogThe American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, the ACVIM Foundation and the Chase Away K9 Cancer campaign are urging dog owners to take 10 minutes on the 14th of each month to check for cancer signs from head to tail.

The 14th was chosen in honor of Chase, a black Labrador retriever born September 14, 1999, who died in 2006 of nasal carcinoma. She hadn’t yet reached her seventh birthday. Chase was the inspiration for Chase Away K9 Cancer.

“One in three dogs will develop cancer,” says Chase’s owner, Cera Reusser. “Early detection may affect treatment and prognosis.”

According to Veterinary Practice News:

“The ACVIM encourages dog owners to keep a record of any growths, watch for unusual behavior and schedule a follow-up exam with a veterinarian if anything suspicious or worrisome is found.”

Dr. Becker's Comments:

If you visited the Chase Away K9 Cancer website, you saw pictures of the campaign’s namesake, the beautiful black lab ‘Chase.’ Perhaps you read a little of the story of this young dog lost to cancer.

There are few things as heartbreaking to a pet owner as losing a deeply loved companion animal, especially at such an early age.

You feel cheated because his time with you was so short. And often, you feel panic at the thought that a new pet could be ripped from you just as quickly and unexpectedly.

Most animal lovers eventually take the plunge again, but some are never able to get past the pain. They live in fear of growing attached to another pet.

Cancer and Its Causes

Cancer, in a nutshell, is abnormal cell growth.

A healthy immune system is able to keep this process in check. It’s when the immune system doesn’t respond appropriately to abnormal cell growth that cancer gets a foothold.

There are lots of reasons cancer develops in companion animals. Some have yet to be discovered, others we know about or suspect, including:

Symptoms to Watch For

To recognize signs of ill health, you must know your pup and keep an eye out for changes in her behavior or appearance.

  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lumps or swellings anywhere on the body
  • Weight loss
  • Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • Lameness, stiffness, or other movement difficulties
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Offensive or unusual odor

Make a Difference Where You Can, Starting with Your Pet’s Diet

As a pet owner, you have limited control over the genes your dog or cat inherits. However, you have the opportunity to exert a great deal of influence over your pet’s environment, the medical care she receives, and certainly her diet.

There is ample evidence connecting the consumption of complex carbohydrates and accelerated tumor growth in humans.

In dogs and cats, there is data pointing to longer cancer survival rates in animals fed a diet high in protein and fat, and low in carbohydrates.

Cancer needs glucose to grow, and carbs are a rich source of glucose.

Cancer has no use for protein and fat, but healthy cells use both as energy sources. Feeding companion animal cancer patients a biologically appropriate diet – high in protein and healthy fats, with very low or no carbs -- effectively starves out cancer cells.

Perform Routine Wellness Exams

Choose the 14th or another meaningful day of each month and write reminders on your calendar.

Check your pet from head to toe each month, not only for telltale bumps, lumps and swellings, but also for any other signs something is wrong or just ‘off’ with your dog or cat’s body.

If you haven’t already done so, watch my video on how to perform an at-home wellness exam on the four-legged members of your family.

This is a great way to stay on top of your pet’s health and overall physical condition on a monthly basis. The earlier any type of health concern is noticed and addressed, the better.

Be Your Pet’s Healthcare Advocate

Partner with a holistically-oriented veterinarian whose focus is on helping you maintain your pet’s good health.

Carefully consider all options for vaccinations and procedures like sterilization and discuss your concerns with your integrative vet.

Do the same with medications prescribed for your dog or cat. Antibiotics and corticosteroids are vastly overprescribed in many veterinary practices today. Both classes of drugs can devastate your pet’s immune system, leaving him without the resources his body needs to fight cancer or other serious disease.

Talk with your holistic vet about safe parasite control for your pet. Chemical flea and tick products should be used sparingly if at all, and with a great deal of caution, as they carry the risk of potentially deadly side effects.

Your holistic vet can also help you with detox agents in the event your pet is put on a course of medication, as well as homeopathic and other natural remedies -- for example pet probiotics -- that can be used in lieu of or in conjunction with traditional therapeutic tools.

Learn whether your dog’s breed is predisposed to cancer, and if so, what type(s). If you suspect your pup may have cancer or you want the peace of mind that comes with knowing she doesn’t, ask your vet about the new blood test that detects cancer in dogs.

The earlier a problem is detected, the better your dog’s chances of survival.

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