Cancer Care at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals  

The Sprecher Institute for Comparative Cancer Research


FACTS


Cancer is the number 1 concern of pet owners. The most common forms of cancer are:

  • breast
  • skin
  • bone
  • connective tissue
  • oral
  • lymphoma

Known carcinogens include:

  • herbicides,
  • insecticides
  • second-hand smoke
  • radiation exposure
  • and some viruses

 

WARNING SIGNS OF CANCER

  • Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetitie
  • Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  • ffensive odor
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
  • Persistent lameness or stiffness
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating

Cancer Care at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals 

PREVENTION


Major advances in cancer management have occurred over the last decade. Improvements in diagnosis, imaging and staging have identified strategies leading to better management of cancers that are clinically detectable. In addition, significant improvement in supportive care and in particular palliative management of cancer is companion animals has resulted in many more options for owners considering treatment for their pets with cancer.

However, it is still clear that too many dogs and cats die from cancer.

Cancer control, until recently, has been focused on treatment of already existing, clinically detectable disease. However, this strategy is not optimal for control of most types of cancer since even if the tumor is diagnosed when it is small (1 cm diameter) the process is already well advanced and may be beyond our capability of complete eradication of all cancer cells.

The goal of cancer research is to decrease the morbidity and mortality associated with this disease and in order to achieve this goal we must:

1) cure existing and invasive cancer,
2) control preinvasive cancers and,
3) prevent new cancer.

Early diagnosis and prevention could do more to reduce the impact of cancer on the lives of companion animals than cancer treatment programs are able to accomplish. The key to early diagnosis and prevention of cancer is to identify patients at increased risk of cancer development at a stage when interventions will be most successful.

CHEMOPREVENTION
New compounds specifically developed to keep tumors "differentiated" rather than eradicate them is a rational method of cancer control since these strategies are much less toxic than conventional therapy and may be just as useful. This new field is called chemoprevention. Chemoprevention of cancer is conceptually similar to prevention of cardiovascular diseases in patients that are at high risk by administering medication to lower cholesterol and blood pressure before any symptoms occur. An example of chemoprevention for cancer in women is the use of tamoxifen to reduce the incidence of recurrent breast cancer.

From this information, specific screening programs and owner recommendations for prevention and surveillance of these cancers can be developed as described below.

WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP MY PET?
Prevention is the best defense against cancer. Besides giving your animal the healthy basics of life such as good food, clean water, regular exercise and grooming, there are other things that you can do to keep your animal well.

  • Early spay and neuter
  • Regular examinations- 2X year for animals over 8 years old
  • Frequent oral exams
  • Attention to changes in eating and bowel habits

General Recommendations for Cancer Screening