Cancer is a scary topic pet parents avoid at all cost. It’s arguably one of the most widespread, deadliest and incurable diseases among pets and humans alike. But if no one talks about it, potential cures will be left in the dark.
That’s why May has become the designated Pet Cancer Awareness Month. By learning about the disease, we get one step closer to snuffing it out for good. Take a moment to see why Pet Cancer Awareness Month is so important and how you can help support the cause.
What you should know about pet cancer
Cancer is caused by the rapid growth of malignant cells in the body. Free radicals and other harmful substances can damage normal cells, mutating them into a dangerous tumor. As the mutated cells multiply, the tumor becomes larger. Eventually, cells can split away from the original tumor and spread (or metastasize) to other parts of the body. This is referred to as metastatic cancer.
There are many different types of cancer, and some breeds are more prone to one specific kind. Generally speaking, dog breeds most at risk for cancer include Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Great Danes and German Shepherds. Cat cancer is less breed-specific, and our feline friends have a lower risk of cancer in general. However, outdoor cats with pale skin or no fur have a higher chance of developing squamous cell carcinoma.
While the cause of pet cancer remains unknown, certain factors may put your cat or dog at risk. Tobacco smoke and air pollution have been linked to lung cancer in pets. Household cleaners, perfumes and yard treatments can also increase the amount of carcinogens in your pet’s body. Intact male and female pets are much more likely to develop cancer affecting the reproductive system and mammary glands.
Unfortunately, a lot of pets lose their battle with cancer. It’s a scary fact that most pet parents try not to think about. Cancer is the diagnosis pet parents fear the most, but multiple treatments are available to ease a fur baby’s discomfort and prolong their life. Similar to humans, chemotherapy and surgically removing the tumor are effective treatments against pet cancer. Pet parents may also choose to explore alternative medicines such as organic herbal supplements.
Join the fight in saving pet lives
Cancer is a relentless force, and pet parents often feel powerless to stop it. But there’s actually a ton of ways you can help! Observe Pet Cancer Awareness Month by supporting your pet’s health and all the other fur babies out there. Here’s how you can take action.
- Know the symptoms: Different cancers lead to different symptoms. However, some telltale signs are universal among cancer diagnoses. These include sudden weight loss, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and bumps under the skin. Familiarize yourself with the various cancer symptoms and contact your vet at the first signs of illness. Early intervention can limit the spread of cancer cells and improve your pet’s prognosis. Keep in mind, these symptoms overlap with many other diseases. A professional diagnosis is crucial before pursuing a treatment plan.
- Conduct at-home exams: Some pets with cancer exhibit very subtle symptoms. Cats, in particular, will go to great lengths to mask illness because it’s a survival instinct they inherited from the wild. For these reasons, cancer symptoms may not become apparent until you take a closer look. Check your pet’s body for signs of cancer on a regular basis. Look for weight loss, abnormal breathing patterns and lumps on or under the skin. These body checks only take a minute, and you can evaluate your pet during grooming or cuddle sessions.
- Donate to a worthy cause: There’s still so much we don’t know about pet cancer, especially as it pertains to cats. Research is the key to saving lives, but clinical trials don’t receive enough funding. Universities and research centers often rely on donations to discover new treatment options. In honor of Pet Cancer Awareness Month, donate to an organization that’s committed to finding a cure. Don’t stress if you can only give a couple dollars—every little bit helps. Your donation could lead to a major breakthrough!
Everyone should observe Pet Cancer Awareness Month, even if they don’t have a fur baby at home. Most people either know someone with cancer or have gone through it themselves. No one should have to experience that, and neither should our four-legged companions. Cats and dogs can’t fight cancer alone. They depend on animal lovers like you to look out for their health.