When my dog Harper, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsils last year, I was stunned. I had never even heard of tonsil cancer, but it is one of the many types of cancer that can affect dogs of any breed or mix.
According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 6 million new cancer diagnoses are made in dogs each year. Certain breeds have genetic predispositions to certain cancers. About half of all dogs over the age of 10 will be diagnosed with cancer, and it is estimated that 25% of dogs (1 in 4) will develop cancer at some point in their life. It’s about the same rate as humans. Perhaps this is because we share the same environment and the same way of life so closely.
Whatever the reason, the more we know about cancer in dogs, the better we can learn how to treat or manage it, as well as identify which dogs are most at risk. Inspired by National Pet Cancer Awareness Month, which takes place in November, Nationwide analyzed pet health insurance policies and claims data for the past six years for approximately 1.5 million dogs: purebred, mixed breed and crossbreed. The results can help lay a foundation to help veterinary professionals and pet owners know what to look for in certain breeds.
Among the discoveries:
– In an analysis of the 10 most popular breeds, Boxers (the seventh most popular breed) were 2.6 times more likely to have a cancer claim, while Chihuahuas (the eighth most popular breed) were half as likely to have a claim with a cancer diagnosis.
– Some similar or related types of dogs showed big differences. For example, among the top 100 purebred dogs covered by Nationwide, English cockers – the third most numerous breed of spaniel covered by the pet health insurance company – had a 3.5 times higher cancer prevalence. to that of other dogs. American Cocker Spaniels and English Springers, Spaniels # 1 and # 2 covered by Nationwide, have prevalence rates less than half that of the English Cocker Spaniel.
– Mixed breeds (dogs of complex or unknown ancestry) and crossbreeds (two different purebreds intentionally bred to create “designer dogs” such as doodles) were half as likely to be subject to a cancer claim than the average purebred.
– Small to medium-sized dogs have a significantly lower risk for all major cancers.
– Areas of the body where cancers typically occur on all types of pets – dogs, cats, birds, small mammals and reptiles – were the skin (eg melanoma); lymph (lymphoma); spleen (eg hemangiosarcoma); bone (such as osteosarcoma); and the liver (eg, hepatocellular sarcoma, the most common type of primary liver cancer in dogs).
While data analysts have yet to fully determine the age at diagnosis for different breeds, knowing that beagles, for example, are at higher risk for urinary cancer, vets have the tools to advise owners of this breed to watch for urinary tract infections. symptoms – and not to wait to bring these dogs. In this breed, what looks like a simple UTI could be the start of something more serious, says Dr. Jules Benson, Nationwide’s chief veterinarian. “It’s not necessarily personalized medicine, but it’s health coaching and counseling in a way that we haven’t necessarily seen before,” he says.
Are cats left in the cold? Nationwide plans to run their numbers in the future.
“We have a ton of feline data,” says Dr. Benson. “We know that certain types of cancer occur more frequently in cats, and discovering some of these warning signs – especially for cats, which are so good at hiding it all – that these tips might be even more helpful than for them. dogs. “
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Questions and answers
Q: My dog is old and I am worried about what his life will be like towards the end. Is there palliative care for pets?
A: Yes, and you are a wonderful pet parent to think about it. End-of-life care is a way to make sure you have more time with your beloved dog while avoiding suffering.
The pet hospice – or “pawspice,” as veterinary oncologist Alice Villalobos calls it – gives you time to make decisions about the treatment or euthanasia of animals with terminal illness and to prepare yourself emotionally for their death.
The American Veterinary Medical Association offers guidelines for practices that wish to provide such services to their clients and patients. The hospice is different for every pet and every family. Some animals may still live at home and be cared for by family members, while others may benefit from a stay in an establishment that offers care, comfort and quality of life. Even in a facility, you can still be involved in the care of your pet.
To enter a pet hospice, patients must have a terminal illness with a short life expectancy, according to AVMA. The end-of-life care team consists of a veterinarian and staff trained in palliative care and pain management, including medication, for terminally ill animals. They will also act as advocates for the animals in their care. Staff can also include counselors who can guide you in assessing your pet’s quality of life and assist you when it is time to make the decision to give your dog a pain-free exit from life through euthanasia. .
Your veterinarian may be able to direct you to a pet hospice certified by the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care. – Mikkel Becker
Do you have a question about pets? Send it to [email protected] or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
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– Does your bird need a humidifier? Modern climate-controlled homes can become too dry for birds, especially those that would typically live in a tropical rainforest. To help your bird stay comfortable, spray it daily with a spray bottle set to a light, soft mist or use a humidifier to increase the moisture content in the air in your home. This is especially important in the winter after turning on the heater, thereby reducing the relative humidity of your bird’s environment.
– Your pet’s tags can be more than just a means of identification; for some, they are collector’s items. The International Society of Animal Permit Collectors, formed in 1976, is an organization of people who collect dog and cat license tags and certificates. Governments have allowed dogs for centuries – this is one of the reasons some breeds originally had cut tails, indicating that they were working dogs, not to be taxed – but Identity plates, which date from the late 19th century in Cincinnati, are certainly less demanding. to dogs than losing their tails. They got caught and are now seen on most companion dogs. Older, unusually shaped labels are of most interest to collectors. Find information about ISALC members at facebook.com/groups/dogtax.
– The Siamese is not the only breed of cat native to Thailand. Another is the khao manee, nicknamed the “white jewel” for its shimmering white coat and vibrant blue, green, gold, or eerie (when each eye is a different color) eyes. Dedicated to their people, these curious feline roommates love to run after and collect toys, then cuddle up to their favorite person for a nap. As beautiful as they are, it’s no wonder they’re meant to bring good luck to those lucky enough to live with them. – Dr Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts led by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian, Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of numerous bestselling books on pet care, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell. Thornton. Join them, Mikkel Becker, behavior consultant and head animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found on Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is on Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is on Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.