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Can Pets Get Cancer?

Cancer is often treatable and treatment is well tolerated in most animals. If we can detect cancer early and take our pets to the vet for diagnosis and treatment, we will greatly increase their chances of survival.


Environmental carcinogens, such as those found in alcoholic beverages or cigarette smoke, have been shown to lead to the development of squamous cell carcinomas found in the mouth of cats. Viruses are known to cause some cancers in pets. For example, feline leukemia virus is a common cause of death for cats.


Symptoms of cancer in animals are similar to those in humans. Some of the most common early warning signs of cancer in pets are:

  • Abnormal swelling that grow or persists
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pale gums

Other signs may include:

  • Bleeding or discharge from anybody opening such as the nose or mouth.
  • Bad odor, especially from the mouth.
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing.
  • Loss of stamina or reluctance to exercise.
  • Persistent lameness or stiffness.
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating.


There are five common diagnostic techniques available in most hospitals that can help you diagnose cancer earlier in dogs and cats.

  • FINE NEEDLE ASPIRATE OF MASSES- If new lumps or bumps are found, obtaining a fine needle aspirate (FNA) will provide useful information in an inexpensive and non-invasive way.
  • RECTAL EXAM- This could help in the identification of anal sac tumors in smaller sizes or even before clinical symptoms are observed.
  • BLOODWORK– It is common for older pets to have annual laboratory testing. Although cancer is not always readily detectable in routine laboratory work, there are some potential red flags.
  • The complete blood count– The complete blood count will provide useful information on the overall health of the pet and potential suggestions for further investigation.
  • Chemistry profile– The corresponding chemical profile can lead to further analysis of cancer sites.
  • URINALYSIS- This provides an opportunity to utilize a true screening test that previously could be challenging to diagnose in a pet.
  • RADIOGRAPHS- This screening method for early cancer detection includes thoracic radiographs.


Following your pet’s examination and diagnosis, the veterinarian will discuss treatment options with you. Depending on the type of cancer, the location, and how advanced the disease, your pet’s oncologist may recommend one or more treatment alternatives. In combination to control cancer in pets, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy is used.

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