Oncology is the study of cancer. Cancer is unfortunately one of the top causes of death in older dogs. Currently, veterinarians do not have a known cause for most types of cancers. There are a couple types of cancer that have known genetic causes, including malignant histiocytoses in Bernese Mountain Dogs and hemangiosarcoma in Golden Retrievers and possibly German Shepherds. Overall, cancer is usually a mystery as to why it forms and why it spreads throughout the body.
The first line of defense for detecting cancer in your pet is YOU! Through daily petting and consistent grooming, new lumps and bumps can be found. As soon as a new lump is found on your pet, have it checked by a veterinarian. The first thing that a veterinarian at Pet Kare Clinic will do to assess a lump on your pet is to feel for size and consistency. A fine needle aspirate (FNA) will then be taken from the lump; this is when a needle is poked into the lump to retrieve cells. These cells are then stained and look at under a microscope. An FNA is crucial to determine what kind of lump is on your pet. Although most lumps in dogs are benign and often fatty tumors, there is no way to be sure about what kind of lump your pet has without looking at it under the microscope.
The lump is benign… what’s next?
As said above, most lumps are benign and/or fatty tumors, which are called lipomas. Usually, these benign lumps are of no concern. However, if the lump ever grows rapidly or changes in consistency (feels soft one day and then firm the next), a veterinarian should take another FNA. It is rare, but benign lumps can change into cancerous lumps.
The lump looks like cancer… what’s next?
The next step would be to biopsy the mass either by removing it or taking a little piece, and sending it to a board certified pathologist. Cancerous lumps need to be staged or graded to determine whether the cancer is aggressive or not. If the cancer is aggressive, then additional work-up should be started. At Pet Kare Clinic, our oncology work-up includes a complete physical exam, chest and abdominal x-rays and abdominal ultrasound, if indicated. Depending on the type of cancer, certain organs and areas in the body need to be checked for metastasis (spread).
Sometimes, your pet can have cancer within the organs and/or lungs, but not in the form of an outside lump. An annual exam is crucial for your pet, as it can often detect changes in lung sounds, or masses in the abdomen that are signs of cancer.
If your pet has cancer, Pet Kare Clinic can offer surgical removal of the mass and/or affected organ, chemotherapy, diet recommendations and herbal therapy. The veterinarians at Pet Kare Clinic also have good communication with board certified veterinary oncologists, which allows for accurate planning and care for your pet with cancer. We often refer pets with cancer to oncologists in the Front Range, and are happy to implement any treatment recommended by a specialist. There are options for your pet with cancer; Pet Kare Clinic will help with whatever decision you decide is best for you and your pet.