Cancer in Dogs and Cats

If cocktail party conversation turns to my profession, other partygoers frequently express astonishment over the fact that pets suffer from cancer. They are even more surprised that the cancers in dogs and cats are very similar to human cancers. For the entire month of October, we are celebrating the opening of the Cancer Institute at the Animal Medical Center, and as part of this celebration, all blogs this month will focus on some aspect of cancer in pets. Last week I wrote about the Cancer Institute’s Licensed Veterinary Technicians. This week, I have amalgamated past blogs on cancer to create an information resource for pet owners about cancer.

Since many folks don’t realize pets get cancer, they may not recognize the warning signs of cancer in pets. The link takes you to a slideshow to help you recognize cancer in your dog or cat.

Types of Cancer in Dogs and Cats
The types of cancer veterinarians diagnose in dogs and cats are very similar to those affecting humans. Pets diagnosed with breast cancerlymphoma and melanoma commonly seek treatment at the Cancer Institute. Skin lumps,  which are common in dogs, can be noncancerous or a deadly tumor. Veterinarians often use aspiration cytology to identify malignant skin tumors prior to surgical removal. Tumors more commonly seen in dogs and cats than in humans include a family of tumors with the “last name” sarcoma. Treatment of osteosarcoma often requires an amputation to control the tumor and hemangiosarcoma is a tumor unique to dogs and cats.

Treatment Options for Cancer in Dogs and Cats
Therapies traditionally used to treat cancer in humans such as surgery and radiation therapy are mainstays in veterinary oncology. Drug therapy, whether traditional chemotherapy, targeted therapies or immunotherapy are used routinely in cats and dogs with cancer. At AMC, we also use traditional Chinese medicine as part of an integrative approach to cancer care.

Cancer Research for Dogs and Humans
Without research, we cannot improve treatments and will not improve on our current successes in cancer management. Recent advances in pet cancer have helped to delineate “new” cancers or redefine old ones to facilitate better treatment. Dogs are also helping advance the fight against human cancer as they serve as a model for various human tumors.

Finally, what is probably most important to all of us at AMC, is quality of life. Achieving a good quality of life for our dog and cat patients is really the goal of treatment, whether your pet has cancer or a different disease.

Household Cleaning Products: A Pet Danger

It’s spring cleaning time, but if you have pets please clean cautiously since some of the most common cleaning agents can be toxic to your pet. Birds are especially sensitive to the fumes from household cleaning agents.

Chlorine bleach has an extremely wide spectrum of activity against common bacteria and viruses. Its low cost makes bleach an attractive disinfectant and laundry additive. Bleach disinfects by oxidizing cell membranes, rupturing and killing cells. Bleach has the same effect on the gastrointestinal tract if your pet drinks undiluted bleach or chews on the bleach container. A splash of bleach into the eye of a curious pet can cause tearing, irritation and even an ulcer.

Some websites recommend the use of phenol-containing pine scented cleaners as a deterrent for cats who urinate outside their litter boxes. If you use these products, you may no longer have a healthy cat and the litter box issues will seem insignificant. When walking across your freshly mopped kitchen floor, your cats get phenol on their feet. Phenol is caustic to the delicate paw pads. Then, when cats groom, they ingest the cleaner which damages their liver and kidneys. When compared to dogs, cats are extremely susceptible to phenol toxicity since their liver lacks an important enzyme for metabolism of phenol.

Although not technically toxic, steel wool and metal mesh scouring pads can cause intestinal obstruction if consumed by your pet. At first glance these products do not have much culinary appeal, but when encrusted with steak bits from the grill or some scrambled eggs from the frying pan, a scouring pad becomes a tasty treat for your dog or cat. As you can see in the x-ray, the scouring pad unravels and prevents food from normally passing though the intestine. The sharp strands can also slice into the intestinal wall. Emergency surgery is required for removal.

Quaternary ammonium compounds are disinfectants with a broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity against bacteria, viruses and fungus. These compounds are popular cleaning agents colloquially called “quats.” Serious injury can result to both pets and people if they inadvertently come in contact with quats. Caustic burns, convulsions, low blood pressure and even death occur following ingestion or contact with the skin.

The AMC Emergency and Critical Care staff recently teamed up to save the life of a young Yorkshire Terrier with severe oral swelling and respiratory distress from ingestion of quaternary ammonium. Read his story: Yorkie Ingests Deadly Poison and Survives.

Not sure if a product is pet-safe? Download the material safety data sheet for any product you might purchase to prevent bringing a dangerous product home.