Information and natural remedies for the treatment of cancer in cats and dogs.
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What is Cancer?
Cancer is a very common health problem that affects dogs and cats, especially during their senior years (over 8 years old). It can occur in almost any part of the body affecting the skin, tissue, bone, organs and lymph nodes.
Lumps or tumors are often an indication that your pet has cancer, and they may either be benign (non cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). While cancer is life threatening and devastating for both the pet and pet owner, the veterinary field has made advances to recognize cancer and control symptoms.
Cancer can affect any organ or tissue within the body and these include:
Skin cancer: Skin tumors may either be benign or malignant. In cats, they tend to be malignant while skin tumors in dogs are often benign. They are more common in older dogs than cats.
Breast cancer: Breast cancer is usually seen in unspayed female pets. It is recommended that you spay your pet between 6 and 12 months of age to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. It is estimated that 85% of breast tumors are malignant in cats and 50% in dogs.
Lymphatic cancer: Lymphatic cancer involves tumors of the white blood cells and classified as lymphosarcomas, lymphomas and lymphoid leukemias. Lymphoma is a common type of cancer that occurs in dogs and cats. Lymph nodes and any other organ within the body, particularly the liver and spleen become enlarged. In cats, lymphoma is often the result of a virus – Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). These tumors affect Doberman pinchers and Golden and Labrador retrievers. It is one of the most manageable and treatable cancers which is usually controlled with chemotherapy.
Bone cancer: Bone cancer seldom occurs in cats but seems to be more common in large breed dogs. Osteosarcoma is the most common type of tumor which is extremely malignant. Tumors affect the bones near the leg joints and symptoms of swelling and lameness are usually present. Often amputation is the treatment option used to treat osteosarcoma but in many cases, chemotherapy is also used to extend life.
Mouth, nose, lip and tongue cancer: Mouth cancer is characterized by bleeding, tumors on the gums, lips or tongue, eating difficulties or odor. These types of tumors affect both dogs and cats. Tumors of the mouth are highly malignant and treatment may involve surgery followed by radiation which would be very painful for the pet.
Tumors may also develop in the nose of the dog and cat causing bleeding, breathing difficulties and swelling in the face. It is most often white cats that develop tumors of the nose and lips as well as their ears – these are mainly caused by exposure to the sun
Abdominal cancer: Tumors in the abdomen are common in both dogs and cats. An indication of abdominal cancer is weight loss or an enlarged abdomen.
The common symptoms and signs of cancer include:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Abnormal swellings on the body that persist or have enlarged
- Bleeding from body openings
- Sores that do not heal
- Breathing difficulties
- Difficulty urinating or defecating, or increased urinating or defecating
- Low energy levels
- Stiffness and lameness
What Causes a Cancer?
The exact cause of cancer is not known and as a result preventative measures cannot be taken.
If you notice a lump, swelling or your pet has lost weight, consult your vet immediately. The diagnosis is based on the pet’s symptoms, a thorough physical examination and the medical history is reviewed. Certain tests such as x-rays, blood tests, CT scan or a biopsy may be performed to determine the diagnosis of cancer.
Help for Cancer
Various treatment options may be recommended to treat cancer in dogs and cats. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, cryosurgery (freezing), hyperthermia (heating) or immunotherapy. Some surgical procedures can remove certain types of cancer completely and in extreme cases, amputation may be required.
Chemotherapeutic medications may be administered in oral, injectable or IV form and is recommended to treat tumors if surgery is not possible. It works by killing off cancer cells so that tumor size will be controlled or in temporary remission. This type of treatment does have some negative side effects that involve weakening the immune system and intestinal system.
Often a combination of these therapies are used together to treat the cancer effectively. Alternative treatments such as nutritional therapy can also be beneficial for your pet. During the period that your pet is receiving treatment, ensure that he is comfortable and calm. Discuss in depth with your vet the best possible treatments for your pet.
Herbal remedies have been shown to be highly beneficial in the treatment of cancer symptoms in pets. Using herbs helps to support the pet’s immune system affected by cancer, reduce growths and speed up recovery. Carefully selected herbs such as Astragalus membranaceous (Huang Qi), Viscum album (Mistletoe), Echinacea purpurea and Withania somnifera (Indian ginseng) contain excellent immune tonic properties, maintain overall cell health and promotes health and vitality. In addition, Sylibum marianus (Milk Thistle), Uncaria tormentosa (Cat''s Claw) and Rice powder have powerful anti-oxidant properties with cleansing and purifying abilities.