Gerald S. Post, DVM, MEM, DACVIM (Oncology), ACF Founder & Barbara Cohen, Executive Director, May 1, 2017.
Pet Parents who welcome new puppies and kittens into their families likely aren’t thinking that their precious new addition could someday be diagnosed with cancer. Most of us are too busy falling head over heels in love with our new family member to think that far ahead. But statistics show that one in four dogs and one in five cats will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. Those are staggering figures. Animal Cancer Foundation’s goal is to never have a pet or person lost to cancer. However, if your new best furry friend is ever diagnosed with cancer, we encourage you to become an informed decision maker for your pet, to understand the facts about cancer treatment for pets, and to become a supporter of the comparative oncology research that is helping both our pets and people overcome cancer.
Here are a few things you can do now to help prevent cancer in your pet; things you can do before you’re faced with an expensive health situation for your pet; and what to know if your pet is diagnosed with cancer so that you can make informed decisions:
- When introducing a new pet into your home, think about how you will pay for a lifetime of veterinary care, including a health issue such as cancer. Consider pet insurance plans that include wellness care and cancer coverage, and compare them against one another. Once you’ve chosen a plan or if you’ve decided not to purchase pet insurance, set up a monthly savings account deposit for pet health care, self-insurance. If you do this, health decisions for your pet should not become financially burdensome for you.
- Routine preventive veterinary care visits are one of the most important things you can do for your pet. Just as is the case for people, early diagnosis of health issues like cancer most often lead to better prognosis. You and your veterinarian should take notice of unusual lumps and bumps, changes in appetite and behavior, or odd-smelling breath, as these could all be early warning signs of cancer. Educate your family, your pet-sitter, and the local groomer in knowing the warning signs of pet cancer.
- Know that smoking around your pet going is going to affect their health. Just like humans, our pets are subject to cancer caused by second-hand smoke. If you must smoke, step outside to do so. Better yet, quit for both your sakes. Take a walk with your BFF (best furry friend) instead. Studies show obesity is also a risk factor for cancer. Exercise for you both is a win-win.
- Should your pet be diagnosed with cancer, ask for a referral to a board-certified veterinary oncologist in your area. If your veterinarian doesn’t know one, you can search for one through either the Veterinary Cancer Society website(www.vetcancersociety.org), or the ACVIM’s Veterinary Specialist Search website. Have your veterinarian send the oncologist all the tests he or she has run on your pet and ask for a copy for yourself. Go for a consult to the veterinary oncologist. He or she will explain in detail the type, stage and grade of your pet’s cancer and discuss all options with you. Don’t be afraid to go for a second opinion; your ability to work with your veterinary provider makes a difference. Keep the lines of communication open between your family, your veterinarian and your veterinary oncologist and work as a team.