Pet Cancer Awareness Month
Hearing that a pet has cancer is the last thing that devoted pet parents want to hear. There are so many questions and concerns, that it’s hard to know where to start. Cancer accounts for nearly 50% of pet deaths each year, and 1 in 4 dogs develop a tumor sometime during their lifetime. While dogs can get cancer at the rate as humans, cancer is not as prevalent in cats, although when it is found, the tumor tends to grow more aggressively. Pet Cancer Awareness Month which is held in November, works towards raising awareness of the disease in pets, providing information to pet parents and, most importantly, finding a cure.
So what is cancer? Cancer is a group of diseases in which abnormal cells grow without control. The cells then invade surrounding tissues and can spread to different parts of the body. In a normal pet body, new cells are constantly being made to replace old or damaged cells. But when this delicate balance goes awry, the body produces more cells than it needs/or cells that don’t die. These damaged cells usually undergo more genetic changes and then form a mass called a tumor. Tumors can either be benign, which are non-cancerous, and malignant, which are cancerous.
Frequently observed in pets diagnosed with cancer is cachexia, which means progressive, severe weight loss. Pets lose weight for a couple reasons, one because of a lack of appetite and the other because of cancer-induced metabolism. A proper diet while undergoing cancer treatment is essential to help a pet stay as healthy as possibly by maintaining their strength, improving their quality of life and giving them a better chance of responding to therapy.
Although a pet’s cancer diagnosis can be upsetting to pet parents, there is hope. Many vets offer chemotherapy and radiation treatments for pets in their offices, and the success rate of these cancer approaches continue to climb. There are many cancers that can be cured with the help of a supportive therapy and pain management. With new technology and research, oncologists now understand that human cancer and animal cancer are similar, and with this understanding comes progressive ways to help both species. For a pet whose diagnosis is not good, pet parents can do some research and find a veterinary clinical trial which may be able to provide new options and give a pet relief from their symptoms. Treatment is often available at a lower cost, and even if a pet doesn’t respond to the treatment, its participation in the trail can help scientists develop better and more successful cancer treatments for other pets suffering from cancer.
There are many resources on the internet that pet parents can reach out to for help if they want to learn more, or if their pet has been diagnosed with cancer. Websites include http://www.petcancerawareness.org/, http://curepetcancer.com/awareness.html and http://greatergood.com/petcancerawareness/. Using the hashtag #CurePetCancer on social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will spread the word, and Nationwide will also donate $5 to the Animal Cancer Foundation, up to $20,000. With continued support for pet and human cancer organizations, researchers can persevere in their efforts to find a cure.