November is Pet Cancer Awareness month and we’re working to educate pet owners about cancer in pets and ways you can detect it earlier. Cancer affects pets at about the same rate as humans. We typically see cases in 1 out of 4 dogs and 1 out of 5 cats.

The top 5 cancers in dogs include mast cell tumor (usually on the skin), melanoma, lymphoma, bone cancer (osteosarcoma) and hemangiosarcoma (malignant tumor of the spleen). The most common cancers in cats include lymphoma, feline leukemia virus, mammary cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and fibrosarcoma.

Tips for early identification of cancer in pets:

  1. Schedule yearly to semi-yearly exams
  2. Schedule an exam if you see a skin lesion or tumor that is new or getting bigger
  3. Monitor any unexplained weight loss or gain
  4. Appropriately vaccinate outdoor cats

Pet owners commonly want to know how we’re able to detect cancer in their pets. The most important tool is an examination. From head to tail, your veterinarian will examine your pet to look and feel for any lumps or bumps that are unusual. Blood screening tests can help us identify changes that may be consistent with cancer, but there is not one test that we can run that screens for cancer. Diagnostic imaging, including radiographs and ultrasounds, can help us identify internal tumors or metastatic disease. For certain cases, CT or MRI imaging are required to determine if there is cancer and where it is located.

As veterinary medicine advances, more treatment options are available for our pets. Our doctors can perform surgery to remove most solitary tumors to prevent the spread of disease and then refer you to a veterinary oncologist in Annapolis for chemotherapy if needed. Other specialty practices in our area are able to offer radiation for cancers that are more difficult to remove. If you are unsure about pursuing surgery or other treatment options, a conversation with one of our veterinarians can help you make the best decision for your pets. We are able to offer suggestions for pain management to make sure your pet is comfortable while living with cancer.