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Protecting Your Dog from Cancer

Early detection is the best defense.

I write this week’s column with a heavy heart. A close friend’s dog was diagnosed with prostate cancer and died this past week. The veterinarian told her that prostate cancer in dogs is rare, but unfortunately, it’s usually an aggressive cancer. It most likely occurs in dogs who have not been neutered. Her dog was neutered at the shelter where she adopted him, but there could have been complications with the procedure.

According to the Morris Animal Foundation, half of all dogs will develop cancer during their lifetime and one in four will die of the disease. Early detection is the best tactic for fighting the disease.

So what are the signs that pet parents need to look for? The American Veterinary Medical Association lists these symptoms as ones to discuss with your veterinarian:

  1. Abnormal swellings that persist.
  2. Sores that do not heal.
  3. Weight loss.
  4. Loss of appetite.
  5. Abnormal bleeding or discharge.
  6. Bad breath.
  7. Difficulty eating or swallowing.
  8. Loss of stamina.
  9. Limping or persistent stiffness.
  10. Difficulty breathing, urinating or defacating.

Large breeds, such as Great Danes or St. Bernards, and dogs seven years and older are more prone to bone cancers. If your dog starts to limp or walk differently, don’t assume that it’s arthritis and have your veterinarian examine your dog. Our 13-year-old Australian shepherd/Lab mix dog developed bone cancer and the first symptom was limping.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has these tips for reducing your dog’s risk of developing cancer.

  • Spay your female pet before she’s one year old to greatly reduce the risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers and neuter your male dog to reduce the risk of testicular cancer.
  • Have any masses on your dog’s skin examined by your veterinarian and if it’s cancerous, have it removed as soon as possible.
  • Don't allow your pet to be exposed to cigarette smoke.
  • Use pet-formulated sunscreen on vulnerable, fair-skinned pets.
  • Avoid chemical lawn products, which are proven to cause cancers in pets, including bladder cancer and lymphoma.

Pet of the Week

Haven is an affectionate, 7-year-old Australian cattle dog mix. She’s very athletic and active and loves to play with toys. Haven gets along with other dogs, is okay with dog-savvy cats, and would be best for families with children 10 years or older.

She’s crate trained but would need some basic obedience training. For more information about Haven and other dogs available for adoption, visit the Nike Animal Rescue Foundation website.

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