When your pet is diagnosed with cancer, you may be overwhelmed. Being told that your beloved companion has cancer can be devastating, so give yourself some time to absorb the information. Then it is time to become proactive: find out as much as you can about the type of cancer your pet has and discuss with our vets what potential treatment options exist. Pets today have a better chance of being successfully treated for cancer than they did before, and the more we learn about it, the more pets’ lives we can improve and extend.

Any lump or bump on the body of your pet should be evaluated. Slowly changing small lumps can be discussed at annual wellness visits, but new rapidly growing or painful masses should be seen as soon as possible. Poor appetite, weight loss, vomiting and lethargy are basic symptoms of illness, and can be indicators of cancer. The good news is that treatments exist for cancer in pets. While cancer can be fatal, many masses are slow growing or benign.

Fatty lumps: Fatty lumps are common over the trunk on dogs. They typically occur above the muscle and under the skin, so they feel slippery or like a water balloon. It is important to differentiate these common benign growths from Mast Cell Tumors or Soft tissue Sarcomas. A fine needle aspirate of a mass can usually be done on an unsedated patient during an outpatient visit. A slide made from tissue collected can be stained and examined. A diagnosis of fatty mass usually means we will leave the lump in place, and continue to monitor its size and consistency. Rapid growth or immense size are reasons to consider fatty mass removal.

Chemotherapy and Surgery: Lymphoma, Mast Cell Tumor and Osteosarcoma are all rather frequent types of malignant cancer. Ann Arbor Animal Hospital works with veterinary cancer specialists—MSU Small Animal Oncology in East Lansing, Animal Cancer and Imaging in Commerce Township, Oakland Veterinary Referral in Bloomfield Hills and Michigan Veterinary Specialists in Southfield—to facilitate cancer treatment (eg surgical options, staging). While we do not offer chemotherapy at this time, we will work together with your oncologist to help treatment be successful.

Multimodal pain management and holistic options:
We use acupuncture and selected Chinese herbs to improve the pet’s immune system and life quality and to help control pain. Each case of cancer is an individual specific patient, and each family will need help to outline the options available and appropriate for their pet. We often combine two or more prescription pain medication to get good pain control with little sedation or intestinal upset.

New diagnostic methods can help detect cancer earlier and improve your pet’s chances, and new treatments methods are being developed to provide better success rates with less risk of side effects. Animals tolerate chemotherapy with fewer side effects and much less hair loss than experienced by humans.

10 common signs of cancer in small animals (please note that these are also presenting signs for many other illnesses)

  • Abnormal swellings or growths 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.