Written by Michael W. Miller, DVM
As a veterinarian, one of the most heartbreaking diagnoses I have to give to pet owners is that their beloved dog or cat has cancer. Unfortunately, cancer is a common disease we see in pets, and while there are treatments available, prevention is always the best approach. Here are some tips for dog and cat owners to help keep their pets safe from cancer:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity is a major risk factor for cancer in pets, just as it is in humans. Be sure to monitor your pet's weight and feed them a balanced diet to help keep them at a healthy weight.
- Avoid exposure to toxins: Pets can be exposed to a variety of toxins in their environment, including secondhand smoke. Exposure to secondhand smoke has been linked to an increased risk of cancer in pets. Pets who groom themselves can ingest the toxins from cigarette smoke, leading to digestive problems and oral cancers. Therefore, it is recommended that pet owners who smoke quit smoking or at least smoke outside, away from their pets.
- Limit sun exposure: Just like humans, pets can get skin cancer from too much sun exposure. The risk is higher for hairless breeds and patients with white skin. If your pet will be spending time outside, think about providing shade and consider using pet-safe sunscreen on areas of skin that are exposed to the sun.
- Keep up with regular veterinary care: Regular check-ups and preventative care, such as vaccinations, can help catch any health issues early, including cancer. For example, the Feline Leukemia Virus vaccine can protect cats from a virus that can lead to cancer. During your pet’s wellness exam, please ask us about what preventative measures are appropriate for your pet's breed, age, and lifestyle.
- Consider spaying or neutering: Spaying or neutering your pet can significantly reduce their risk of certain types of cancer, such as ovarian, uterine, and testicular cancer.
While there is no way to completely eliminate the risk of cancer in pets, following these tips can help reduce the chances of your furry friend developing this disease. As always, if you notice any unusual symptoms or behavior in your pet, be sure to contact your veterinarian right away. If you see a new lump or bump, please schedule an appointment to get it checked out. Early detection and treatment can make a big difference in the outcome for pets with cancer!