treating dogs with cancer

Dogs with Cancer: Essential Facts about Canine Cancer

Most visible in large breeds of between 2-8 years with males at higher risk than females.

Hemangiosarcoma: an aggressive and malignant tumor that develops in the cells of the blood vessels and can be found anywhere in the body where there are blood vessels particularly in the spleen, liver, skin and soft tissues.

This tumor spreads quickly and would easily metastasize to the heart and brain and because this tumor feeds on blood it can easily rupture as it grows causing sudden and severe internal bleeding, collapse, shock and quick death. It is when hemangiosarcoma reaches this stage that most owners become aware of the disease.

chemo for dogs with cancer
Dog with cancer on chemotherapy.

50% of this tumor afflicts the spleen while 5% are found in the liver and 7% of the tumors are malignant. It is commonly seen in some dog breeds within 8-10 years of age such as pointers, boxers, golden retrievers, great Danes, Labrador retriever, English setters and German shepherds.

The prognosis for hemangiosarcoma is rather poor except for the dermal version which afflicts the skin. A diagnosis of this tumor is pretty serious coupled with the fact that it is rarely cured. The best prognosis is for dogs that have not experience metastasis of the disease at the time of surgery.

Breeds that are predisposed to cancer

While dogs with cancer are not limited to only specific breeds however it is a well established medical fact that certain breeds are at higher risk of developing cancer as a result of genetic linkage.

The percentage of dogs with cancer that are at high risk by breeds is as follow:

Breeds at high risk of cancerPercentage of breed at high risk of cancer (%)
Boxer36.9
Giant Schnauzer36.9
Bernese Mountain Dog32.7
Irish Wolfhound24.8
Cocker Spaniel22.2
Doberman Pinscher22.2
Pomeranian19.0
Newfoundland16.8
German Shepherd Dog14.8
Saint Bernard13.1
Great Dane12.3
Greyhound12.3
Basset HoundGreater than 10.0

Some quick facts about dogs with cancer:

  • The skin is the most common site of tumors in dogs with cancer and 20-30% is malignant.
  • The size of the dog is a greater risk factor than the breed.
  • Some breeds such as Dobermans, Great Danes, Irish Setters, German Shepherds, St. Bernard and Golden Retrievers have a greater genetic disposition.
  • Gender is also a risk factor with mammary tumor as the most prevalent tumor in female dogs with cancer.
  • In male dogs with cancer the gender risk is testicular tumor.
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The following table is a list of dogs with cancer by dog breeds:

Dog breeds predisposed to cancerCommon cancer that afflict the breed
AiredaleAdenocarcinoma, Malignant internal tumors, Pancreatic carcinoma, Hemangiosarcoma, Melanoma, Lymphosarcoma, Nasal cavity tumor
Alaskan malamute Anal sac adenocarcinoma, Sebaceous gland tumor
Basset HoundLymphosarcoma, Mast cell tumor, Cutaneous haemangioma,
BeagleMammary tumor, Transitional cell carcinoma, Lymphosarcoma, Osteosarcoma, Mast cell tumor, Sebaceous gland tumor, Haemangiopericytoma, Perianal gland adenoma
Bernese Mountain DogHistiocytic sarcoma
Bichon FriseBasal cell tumor
Boston terrierPrimary brain tumor, Melanoma, Fibroma, Mast cell tumor
BoxerHemangiosarcoma, Insulinoma, Lymphosarcoma, Mast cell tumor, Melanoma, Osteosarcoma, Cutaneous haemangioma, Fibroma, Thyroid neoplasia, Primary brain tumor, Histiocytoma, Sq. cell carcinoma
Brittany spanielLipoma
English Bull dogLymphosarcoma, Mast cell tumor
ChihuahuaTesticular neoplasia, Melanoma
Chow chowLymphosarcoma, Melanoma
Cocker SpanielB-cell lymphomas, Lipoma, Basal cell tumor, Perianal gland adenoma, Sweat gland tumor, Cutaneous papilloma, Fibrosarcoma, Plasmacytoma, Sebaceous gland tumor, Histiocytoma, Anal sac adenocarcinoma, Melanoma, Trichoepithelioma
CollieColorectal neoplasia, Histiocytoma, Haemangiopericytoma, Sweat gland tumor, Nasal cavity tumors,
DachshundOcular melanoma, Anal sac adenocarcinoma, Lipoma, Sq.cell carcinoma, Mast cell tumor, Histiocytoma
DalmatianCutaneous haemangioma, Actinic keratosis
DobermanPrimary brain tumor Melanoma, Histiocytoma, Fibroma, Lipoma
Fox TerrierInsulinoma, Fibroma, Haemangiopericytoma, Mast cell tumor
German ShepherdHemangiosarcoma, Testicular neoplasia, Trichoepithelioma, Colorectal neoplasia, Cutaneous haemangioma, Lymphoma, Sweat gland tumor, Nasal cavity tumors, Insulinoma, Limbal melanoma, Anal sac adenocarcinoma
Golden RetrieverFibrosarcoma, Mast cell tumor, Thyroid neoplasia, Trichoepithelioma, osteosarcoma, Melanoma, Insulinoma, Haemangioma, Primary brain tumor, Histiocytoma, Fibroma, Hemangiosarcoma, Lymphosarcoma, Nasal cavity tumors, Sweat gland tumor
Great DaneOsteosarcoma , Histiocytoma
Greyhoundosteosarcoma
Irish setterSebaceous gland tumor, Haemangiopericytoma, Insulinoma Lymphoma, Trichoepithelioma, Melanoma,
Jack RussellPituitary tumor
Labrador retrieverThymoma, Mast cell tumor, Sq. cell carcinoma, Nasal cavity tumors, , Oral Fibrosarcoma Insulinoma, Cutaneous histiocytoma, Lymphosarcoma, Limbal melanoma
Lhasa ApsoPerianal gland adenoma, Sebaceous gland tumor
PekingeseSq. cell carcinoma
PointersNasal cavity tumors, Haemangioma, Mast cell tumor
PoodleLimbal melanoma, Basal cell tumor, Lymphosarcoma, Trichoepithelioma, Testicular neoplasia, Sq. cell carcinoma, Insulinoma, Pituitary tumor, Sebaceous gland tumor, Oral melanoma,
PugMast cell tumor, Oral melanoma
RottweilerLymphoma, Histiocytoma, mast cell tumors, osteosarcoma, transitional cell carcinomas, Hemangiosarcoma, Sq. cell carcinoma, soft tissue sarcomas
SchnauzerSq. cell carcinoma, Limbal melanoma, Sebaceous gland tumor, Melanoma, Testicular neoplasia, Lipoma, Histiocytoma, Trichoepithelioma
Scottish terrierTransitional cell carcinoma, Primary brain tumor, Melanoma, Histiocytoma, Sq. cell carcinoma, Mast cell tumor, Lymphoma
Shar PeiMast cell tumor, Histiocytoma
SheltieTesticular neoplasia, Lipoma, Nasal cavity tumors, Basal cell tumor, Histiocytoma
Shih TsuT- cell lymphomas, Perianal gland adenomas, Sebaceous gland tumor
Siberian HuskyT- cell lymphomas, Testicular neoplasia, Basal cell tumor, Haemangiopericytoma, Sebaceous gland tumor, Perianal gland adenoma
Springer SpanielMammary gland cancer,
Anal sac adenocarcinoma, Melanoma, Trichoepithelioma, Histiocytoma,
WeimaranerLipoma , Mast cell tumor
WestieHistiocytoma
Yorkshire terrierKeratocanthoma, Pituitary tumor, Testicular neoplasia
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Canine cancer treatment

Dogs with cancer have a few standard treatment available but the decision on which specific or combination of treatment will be most appropriate depends on a number of factors such as the stage, grade and the type of cancer. The decision will be made by the oncologist in charge.

detecting dogs with cancer
Early detection of cancer increases the chances of survival.

The canine cancer treatment options available are:

  • Surgery: this is best option when for treating localized tumor i.e. tumors that has not yet spread to other tissues in the body but if it has metastasize, surgery is used in combination with other canine cancer treatment
  • Chemotherapy: used for treating cancer at the location where it has occurred and also if the tumor has metastasize to other parts of the body or there is a high risk that it may. It’s a systemic therapy that affects the entire body but unlike in humans the side effects are mild.
  • Radiation therapy: like surgery it is used for treating localized tumors but with the additional capacity to provide relief from pain. So even if the tumor cannot be eradicated radiation can be used to slow down the growth and/or shrink it while at the same time providing relief.

Cancer prevention in dogs

Because the causes of cancer in dogs is largely unknown, early detection remains the best option nevertheless there are a few things you can do as a dog owner in order to reduce the chances of your dog getting cancer, some of which are:

  • If you want to reduce the likelihood of mammary cancer in your female dog by as much as eight fold then spray her before her first heat.
  • Oral care can reduce the likelihood of your dog getting oral cancer.
  • If you purchase a pure breed make sure the breed’s bloodline is not suffering from any particular type of cancer.

Cost of treatment

The cost of treating dogs with cancer is a function of several variables such as:

  • The extent of the tumor development and if it is localized or has metastasized.
  • The type and location of tumor.
  • The number of treatment required.
  • The condition and age of the dog.

The cost of treatment for dogs with cancer will cover the following areas:

  • The cost of diagnosis and the treatment plan.
  • The cost of surgery.
  • An addition cost of chemotherapy if surgery alone is not enough.
  • Yet an additional cost of radiation therapy if the treatment of the tumor requires more than surgery and chemotherapy.
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When to put down

After all the effort to help a dog suffering from cancer sometimes dog owners find themselves in a situation where they are confronted with a serious reality of continuing to keep the dog alive or allow for a peaceful departure. In such situations there are a few helpful questions that the dog owner should ask himself and the answers to these questions will help in putting things in a better perspective:

  • Is the dog in pain beyond medical redemption?
  • What will be the value of additional treatment? Will the quality of life improve?
  • Are you financially capable of handling the cost of treatment?
  • Is keeping the dog alive in its best interest?

Cancer may appear to be here to stay but dogs with cancer do not have to die from their cancer since early detection increases the chances of survival.

 

References

Kentucky veterinary medical association

Recognized causes of cancer in dogs and cats & Advances in cancer treatment in pet Animals

Dennis W, Macy DVM, MS, DACVIM Oncology and Internal Medicine

Professor Emeritus, Colorado State University, Fort Collins Colorado, Cancer Care Specialist, Las Vegas, Nevada, Desert Veterinary Specialist, Palm Desert, California

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