According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, nearly one-third of all dogs will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. More than half of dogs over the age of 10 will die from the disease. While not all cancers are fatal, many times symptoms aren’t obvious to the owner until the disease in its final stages.
Although cancer isn’t as common in cats as it is in dogs, felines are also affected by the disease. And because cats have a tendency to mask illnesses, cancer can be harder to detect.
A product recently released by a California company may help pet owners determine if their dogs are at risk of developing the disease.
Veterinary Diagnostics Institute will present a paper on its research and cancer screen to veterinarians later this month at the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum in New Orleans.
“The test will tell us if the animal has a biological marker that correlates to a disease,” said Randy Ringold, president of the Simi Valley, Ca., company, developers of the a canine cancer screen called InCase.
The company suggests the product should be used to test older dogs for cancer signs once a year. It is done with a simple blood test that is administered by a veterinarian, said Ringold. The test screens for markers that show up in the dog’s DNA before cancer establishes itself.
A different test is available for cats that have already contracted the disease.
“It’s particularly helpful [for cats] because it’s difficult to see the difference between lymphoma and inflammatory bowel disease,” said Ringold.
A study of 350 normal dogs showed that all of the 11 dogs that tested positive for the disease eventually developed cancer, Ringold said.
For an animal test group, that’s a large number of test cases, said Dr. Rance Gamblin, veterinary oncologist at Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital in Copley Township. He agreed that such a test, if reliable, could aid in the diagnosis for at-risk patients and said he has already seen it used on a referral basis.
“It may be a helpful tool in diagnosing certain diseases,” he said.
Retriever breeds, in particular, are subject to contracting cancer, and short of trauma, such as being hit by a car, the disease seems to be the leading cause of death for large dogs.
Gamblin, who will attend the forum at the end of this month, said he’s seen the test employed and it was positive for an animal who developed lymphoma. He said he is anxious to see what is presented at the meeting.
“I have seen some banter on our list sites [about the test], he said. “The people actually who developed it are well-respected scientists.” The causes of why an animal develops cancer are not known, but it is believed that an animal’s genetics, environmental issues such as pesticides, poor diet and weight can play a roll. VDI suggests all dogs over the age of 5, those in high-risk cancer breeds and those that may have a history of cancer in the family be tested annually.
Gamblin said while he is hopeful, he is wary about recommending the test be given each year to determine if a dog might contract cancer in the future. Even if the animal tests positive for the disease, the doctor needs to make sure that what is really making the animal sick is cancer and not another underlying problem that can easily be fixed.
“Diagnostics are great, but common sense is even more important,” he said.
To view a list of the breeds of dogs most at risk for cancer, visit www.pethealth101.com/cancer/cancer_rates_by_breed.shtml.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the 10 common signs of cancer in small animals are:
• Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow.
• Sores that do not heal.
• Weight loss.
• Loss of appetite.
• Bleeding or discharge from any body opening.
• Offensive odor.
• Difficulty eating or swallowing.
• Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina.
• Persistent lameness or stiffness.
• Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating.
Other animals in the news:
• Petco and the Blue Buffalo have announced they will team up to raise $1 million for pet cancer research organizations for pet cancer awareness during May. As many as 80 percent of pet owners know little or nothing about what in human terms would be considered an epidemic, according to Petco, a pet retailer that provides products, services and advice to help people make great pet parents. The Blue Buffalo Co. is a manufacturer of healthful and holistic dog and cat foods and founder of the Blue Buffalo Foundation for Cancer Research.
• One of A Kind Pet Rescue and adoption center, 1929 W. Market St., Akron, is celebrating Mother’s Day by offering dogs and cats that were once “moms” at the special $20 adoption rate until the end of May.
• One of a Kind Pet Clinic, 1700 W. Exchange St., will neuter male cats until May 15 and spay female cats until May 31 at the reduced price of $20. In addition, the clinic will micro-chip your pet for $20 through the end of May. For an appointment, call the clinic at 330-865-6890. To learn more about adoptions, visit the adoption center or call 330-865-6201.
• The Public Animal Welfare Society of Ohio (PAWS) will celebrate it’s eighth annual PAWS-4-A-Cause: Adopt-a-thon & Family Fun Day from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 12 at the Cleveland Metroparks South Chagrin Reservation Polo Field in Moreland Hills.
• The Ohio Department of Agriculture issued a health alert urging consumers to use caution when handling pet foods. Diamond Pet Food issued a recall on April 10 for a limited number of dry dog food bags. That recall was expanded last week to include certain lots of its Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul dog food. Laboratory analysis completed by ODA’s Consumer Protection Laboratory showed the pet food tested positive for salmonella contamination.
People are also encouraged to handle pet foods carefully to avoid contamination of salmonella. Symptoms of infection may include fever and gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal pain. The illness primarily impacts young children, frail and elderly people and those with weakened immune systems. Most healthy adults and children rarely become seriously ill. Anyone exhibiting signs of a salmonella infection should contact a health-care provider.
Pets that have consumed food contaminated with salmonella may show signs of an infection including decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain.
If left untreated, pets may also become lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and may vomit.
If your pet is exhibiting any of these signs, contact your veterinarian.
Kathy Antoniotti writes about pets for the Akron Beacon Journal. She is unable to help locate, place or provide medical attention for an individual animal. If you have an idea or question about pets, write her at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; call 330-996-3565; or send an email to email@example.com.