Posts Tagged ‘cancer in pets’

November is National Pet Cancer Awareness Month

Tips From the American Veterinary Medical Association

It’s a sobering reality: Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs and while it’s not as prominent in cats, it’s often a more aggressive form of cancer.

You can be your pet’s advocate when it comes to treating cancer early on by spotting the telltale signs.

Contact your veterinarian if your dog or cat displays any of these signs of possible cancer. Remember, early detection is critical in the fight against pet cancer.

*Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow.
ores that do not heal.
*Weight loss.
*Loss of appetite.
*Bleeding or discharge from any body opening.
*Offensive odor.
*Difficulty eating or swallowing.
*Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina.
*Persistent lameness or stiffness.
*Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating.

Dr. Donald Miele, a Norfolk veterinarian, adds that cancer in pets can mimic other diseases and disorders, so it’s important to perform tests that can tell the difference.
In Hampton Roads, we refer to oncologists who diagnose and treat cancer in pets.

Contact Us to schedule an appointment for your pet. 

Pet cancer infographic

Double-click to enlarge

Article and infographic courtesy of Nationwide Pet Insurance.

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FUNNY ANSWER:  No; let your vet do it.

SERIOUS ANSWER:    If you own a female dog or cat, you will be faced with the question of whether or not to spay your pet. Many animal shelters make that decision for the prospective owners, as they often will not adopt out an intact pet. Cats that come in and out of heat every few weeks, yowling, rolling, and trying to escape outdoors, are typically spayed in a hurry, so the owner can relax. 

But female dogs can be quiet about estrus*, perhaps not shedding much blood or making a nuisance of themselves. Male dogs jumping the fence in search of a mate may be the worst part of the problem. Still, pet owners wonder whether the risk of spay surgery is acceptable. Spaying – at least for now – is still an elective, rather than a legal mandate, in most places. 

[*Italicized words are defined in the glossary at the end of this article.]

For the purposes of this post, we will consider as a “spay” an ovariohysterectomy, in which the uterus and ovaries are removed. Another type of spay surgery is the ovariectomy, in which only the ovaries are removed. 

What are the benefits of spaying?

  • Reduced risk of mammary cancer
  • Eliminated risk of uterine and ovarian tumors
  • Eliminated risk of uterine infection (pyometra)
  • Eliminated risk of unwanted litters
  • Financial incentive, i.e. greatly discounted rate for city license fees 
  • Fewer unwanted “suitors” coming to call

Focus on pyometra
 is a preventable disease, in that it can be prevented through spay surgery. Intact (non-spayed) females are at risk for pyometra, which often presents 1-2 months after estrus (or “heat”). Elevated hormone levels can lead to greater than normal secretions in the uterus, providing a breeding ground for bacteria.

Affected dogs may have an “open” pyometra, in which pus, mucus, and blood may be seen draining from the vulva. In a “closed” infection, the accumulated pus does not drain, and the pet may show more severe signs of illness. In either case, look for lethargyanorexia, depression, excessive thirst. Pets with ”closed” infections may exhibit vomiting and diarrhea, shock, and collapse. Interestingly, fever is not always present.

In most cases, spay surgery is the preferred remedy for pyometra. Due to the illness, the risks of surgery are elevated. To wit: the infected organ must be removed from the body without introducing its contents to the body cavity. Adding to the risk is the pet’s poor general health as a result of the infection. For these reasons, prevention through early spay surgery is recommended.

Normal canine uterus.  Photo by Jennifer Miele

Normal canine uterus. Photo by Jennifer Miele

Normal canine uterus. Photo by Jennifer Miele

Normal canine uterus. Photo by Jennifer Miele

Infected canine uterus (pyometra).  Notice the sausage-like appearance.  Photo by Jennifer Miele

Infected canine uterus (pyometra). Notice the sausage-like appearance. Photo by Jennifer Miele




  • anorexia – loss of appetite
  • estrus – the portion of the reproductive cycle in which female animals will accept a mate; “heat”
  • intact – not spayed or castrated
  • lethargy – tiredness, reluctance to move or engage in normal activity
  • ovariohysterectomy – surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus; “spay” surgery
  • pyometra – infection of the uterus
  • vulva – the external female genitals

Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice (Birchard, Sherding)
Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary (Blood, Studdert)

This article was originally posted on January 30, 2012.

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