Cancer in dogs

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer for your beloved canine companion can be devastating news. Fortunately, dogs respond well to many forms of cancer treatment. There are different treatments and therapies for different types of canine cancer, and each patient is considered on an individual basis for which array of treatments will be most effective. There are a number of different vitamins, herbs, minerals, and other supplements that have been shown to help.

Cancer in dogs most commonly affects the skin, bones, and internal organs. Research is constantly bringing to light new effective treatments. Obviously, the earlier the cancer is detected, the better the chances for a successful treatment. Various types of X-rays and CAT scans (no pun intended) are helpful in locating and indentifying cancerous tumors and other conditions.

Chemotherapy is used for some types of canine cancer, usually in combination with some kind of surgery. Radiation therapy is most effective on tumors that have not yet spread to other parts of your dog’s body, helping to shrink or eliminate the tumors. Severe toxic side-effects are rare when radiation therapy is used on dogs, affecting less than 5% of the animals receiving it. Some dogs may experience itchy skin as a side effect, and may be prescribed medications to keep them from scratching themselves too much. There may be hair loss at the spot where the radiation is directed, but the hair normally grows back eventually after the treatment is finished.

Cancer can develop without any symptoms, so as a dog owner you should be vigilant, especially with older dogs or with breeds that have a history of inherited cancer. Annual checkups at your vet are essential, but there are also things you can check for at home, including: any unusual swelling that does not heal; weight loss; a loss of appetite; any sores that do not heal; general depression and loss of energy; difficulty breathing; and any chronic difficulty performing normal day-to-day activities like eating, drinking, urinating or defecating.

Recently, the canine genome sequence was completed, and the gene maps are being used for extensive research to help prevent and cure cancer in both dogs and humans, especially bone cancer, skin cancer, and lymphoma, all of which are strikingly similar in both people and canines. Small genetic changes can have a proportionally huge effect in dogs. Because dogs have a much smaller gene pool than humans, cancers (as well as many other dog traits) can be switched on by very few genes — sometimes just one.

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