Sunday, January 01, 2006

Cancer



Signs of Ill Health

Only a healthy pet is a happy companion. Assuring your pet's daily
well-being requires regular care and close attention to any hint of ill health.
The American Veterinary Medical Association therefore suggests that you
consult your veterinarian if your pet shows any of the following signs:

Abnormal discharges from the nose, eyes, or other body openings
Loss of appetite, marked weight losses or gains, or excessive water consumption
Difficult, abnormal, or uncontrolled waste elimination
Abnormal behavior, sudden viciousness, or lethargy
Abnormal lumps, limping, or difficulty getting up or lying down
Excessive head shaking, scratching, and licking or biting any part of the body
Dandruff, loss of hair, open sores, and a ragged or dull coat. Foul breath or excessive tarter deposits on teeth


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Cancer
How Common is Cancer?
Cancer is common in pet animals, and the rate increases with age. Dogs
get cancer at roughly the same rate as humans, while cats get fewer
cancers. Cancer accounts for almost half of the deaths of pets over
10 years of age.

How is it Diagnosed?
Strong circumstantial evidence of cancer can be attained from x-rays, blood tests, the physical appearance of the cancer, or the physical signs caused by the cancer. Most cancers, however, will require a biopsy (removal of a piece of tissue) for confirmation.

Is Cancer Preventable?
Some cancer, such as breast cancer, is largely preventable with early spaying. Unfortunately, the cause of most cancers is not known and therefore prevention is difficult.

Common Signs of Cancer in Pets

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
Hesitance to exercise or loss of stamina
Persistent lameness or stiffness
Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating
Many of the above signs are also seen with noncancerous conditions but still warrant prompt attention by your veterinarian to determine the cause. Cancer is frequently treatable, and early diagnosis will aid your veterinarian in delivering the best care possible.

Common Types of Cancer in Pets

Skin
- Skin tumors are very common in older dogs, but much less common in cats. Most skin tumors in cats are malignant, but in dogs they are often benign. All skin tumors should be examined by your veterinarian.

Breast
- Fifty percent of all breast tumors in dogs and 85% of all breast tumors in cats are malignant. Spaying your pet between 6 and 12 months of age will greatly reduce the risk of breast cancer. Surgery is the treatment of choice for this type of cancer.

Head & Neck
- Cancer of the mouth is common in dogs and less common in cats. A mass on the gums, bleeding, odor, or difficult eating are signs to watch for. Many swellings are malignant, so early aggressive treatment is essential. Cancer may develop inside the nose of both cats and dogs. Bleeding from the nose, difficulty breathing, or facial swelling may occur.

Lymphoma - Lymphoma is a common form of cancer in dogs and cats. It is characterized by enlargement of one or many lymph nodes in the body. A virus causes most of these cancers in cats. Chemotherapy is frequently effective in controlling this type of cancer.

Feline Leukemia Complex
- The feline leukemia virus is contagious among cats and will occasionally cause true cancer. There is no proof that it is contagious to humans. While a great deal of research is ongoing, no consistently effective treatment is presently available for virus-positive cats.

Testicles
- Testicular tumors are rare in cats and common in dogs, especially those with retained testes. Most of these cancers are curable with surgery.

Abdominal Tumors
- Tumors inside the abdomen are common. It is difficult to make an early diagnosis. Weight loss and abdominal enlargement are common signs of these tumors.

Bone
- Bone tumors are most commonly seen in large breed dogs and rarely in cats. The leg bones, near joints, are the most common sites. Persistent lameness and swelling of the leg is an early sign of disease.

How is it Treated?
Each cancer requires individual care. Your veterinarian may use surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, cryosurgery (freezing), hyperthermia (heating) or immunotherapy to effectively treat cancers. Combination therapy is commonly employed.

What is the Success Rate?
This depends strongly on the type and extent of the cancer as well as the aggressiveness of therapy. Some cancers can be cured, and almost all patients can be helped to some degree. Your veterinarian will have a better chance to control or cure your pet's cancer if it is detected early.



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Lyme Disease

What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is an infectious disease syndrome spread primarily by a tick no larger than the head of a pin. It is caused by a spiral-shaped bacterium called a spirochete that is transmitted to animals and humans by the bite of the tick. In people, Lyme disease can appear similar to other diseases such as flu or Alzheimer's disease. If untreated, it can lead to joint damage and heart and neurologic complications. In animals, the disease can mimic flu-like symptoms and can lead to joint damage, heart complications and kidney problems.

What Are The Symptoms?

Lyme disease is not easy to detect for there are a variety of symptoms. Clinical signs may not appear for a long period after initial infection.

Animals seldom develop the rash that commonly occurs in people with Lyme disease. The common clinical signs in animals are fever, inappetence, acute onset of lameness with no history of trauma, and arthralgia. These can develop within weeks of initial infection. Recurring lameness, lymphadenopathy, glomerulonephritis, or myocarditis can develop weeks to months later. In addition to these signs, cows and horses may have chronic weight loss, abortions, and laminitis-like signs.

How Is It Diagnosed?
Diagnosis is based primarily on recognition of the typical symptoms of Lyme disease and by blood testing. It should be noted that early in the disease, the blood test can be negative even though the disease is present. Only with later disease does the test become reliably positive.

What Is The Treatment?
Antibiotics — tetracycline, penicillin and erythromycin — have been shown to be effective in treating the disease in both animals and humans in the early stages. If detected early enough, there is almost complete relief of pain and lameness within 24 hours of initial treatment in animals. Chronic cases of the disease respond much slower and require longer periods of treatment.

How Can It Be Prevented?
Knowledge of where these ticks are found, avoidance of such areas, and, if bitten, prompt removal of the tick are the primary preventive measures. Vaccines are available to protect dogs. Consult with your veterinarian for advice regarding vaccination of your animal.

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