My husband and I heard those words last month from our veterinarian regarding our springer spaniel mix Mary. What started as a skin growth that mushroomed last December also created a tumor on her lung. Speculation is it’s a slow-growing tumor and we should have about a year with her yet. We are to be mindful of her developing shortness of breath and wheezing. Mary is now 13 years old, and she has enjoyed a good life, despite losing her first family prior to us adopting her. We adopted her seven years from English Springer Spaniel Rescue of the Rockies. Although we are thankful the cancer that’s developed is not aggressive nor at an advanced stage, we are saddened to know we’ll once again likely lose a dog to cancer. Mary will be #3.
According to the website Cancer Active, nearly 50% of dogs 10 and older and more than 30% of cats develop cancer. The Truth About Pet Cancer is a documentary-style video series released a few years ago. Some rebuff what’s discussed and asserted in the series, including some of the believed causes attributed to pet cancer. However, learning more about thoughts on environmental factors, pharmaceuticals, and nutrition helps us as pet parents consider what could be impacting our beloved furry friends’ health. A free e-book on pet health is available from the site; if you’re interested, click this link for the download: https://thetruthaboutpetcancer.com/ebook/?a_aid=55b1c500a3d65&a_bid=3a9363c1
The American Animal Hospital Association finds the six most common types of cancer found in dogs are Lymphoma,, which occurs in cells in the lymph nodes or bone marrow; Hemangiosarcoma, a malignant cancer of the blood vessels; Mast cell tumors, often first seen on the skin and go inward to tissue and organs, as in Mary’s case; Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, which often starts in the mouth of a dog; Osteosarcoma, cancer of the bone; and Mammary, which is often malignant, and usually found in unspayed female dogs or those spayed after two years of age.
Cancer Veterinary Centers in Florida says the primary types of cancers that cats develop are Lymphoma, Feline Leukemia Virus, Mammary Cancer, Squamous cell carcinoma (Skin Cancer), and Fibrosarcoma, which develops from fibrous connective tissue.
There are several treatment options for animals with a cancer diagnosis, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Like people, animals undergoing this treatment often have side effects, from hair loss to immunity suppression. Chemotherapy is most often used when cancer has metastasized or is an aggressive type that can easily metastasize. The cost for such therapy varies, but often runs into thousands of dollars, and though there is no guarantee for a cure, many times there is hope for a longer life, depending on the type of cancer.
There are holistic alternatives. Retired veterinarian Dr. Allen Schoen, one of the vets featured in The Truth About Pet Cancer series, says, “Nutritional supplements can help in reversing or preventing the cachexia, or muscle wasting associated with cancer … They may enhance the immune system and decrease the incidence of metastases.” Diet can also help. Dr. Greg Ogilvie, formerly of Colorado State University who now practices in California, helped develop a nutritional plan that “should be comprised of a relatively low amount of simple carbohydrates, modest amounts of fats (especially omega-3 fatty acids), and adequate amounts of highly bioavailable proteins,” reports a story in Whole Dog Journal.
Some even tout ditching the kibble, especially those with grains, and providing people food, such as organic chicken, kale, spinach, apples, and cottage cheese. There is a strong movement for feeding a raw diet; I prefer to cook my pet’s food, at least somewhat, due to potential bacteria in raw meat.
Here is what we are doing with Mary: Alternating between “people food,” as noted above and giving her FreshPet and occasionally no-grain kibble (and I pay close attention to pet food recalls and brands that have been recalled in the past – I don’t feed those to her; that’s one reason I chose FreshPet). I also provide her with Bixby Immunity Booster and fish oil supplements, which I often blend into a smoothie mixture of kale, spinach, carrots, blueberries, and chicken broth. I sprinkle this especially on dry dog food and chicken, turkey, or turkey burger that I cook for her. FreshPet already has those ingredients so I don’t need the veggie/fruit smoothie with it.
If your pet has been diagnosed with cancer, I suggest conducting a lot of research, talking to others who have been where you are (or are going through like you). I also suggest not only talking with your usual vet, but also consulting with a holistic vet. Choose the route you think is best for you and your pet.
Find more information on pet cancer and potential helps here:
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.