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Cancer in animals
Notes to get your bearings and face the disease of our animal friends
Cancer in animal
Cancer is a disease that affects not only humans but animals, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), cancer causes almost 50% of deaths in pets over the age of 10. Seen more commonly in dogs than cats, and contrary to popular belief, also in big animals like horses.
What is a Tumor?With Cancer and Tumor, we’re talking about a pathologic condition characterized by uncontrolled proliferation of cells that have the ability to penetrate in organs and tissues of the organism, altering its structure and functioning. A metastasis refers to the spread of cancer cells from their primary location (the organ in which the cancer began) to another region of the body..
Its interesting that many tumors refer to a specific breeds of animals, like hemangiosarcomas in german shepherds, osteosarcoma in large and giant breeds (Great Dane, Saint Bernard, Irish Wolfhound)..
The signs of tumorsThe most common tumors in petsare those that affect the skin, often we can see the comparison of a lump visible to the naked eye, or touching; another very frequent kind is the lymphoma that shows a swelling of the lynph node. Unfortunately, many tumors can develop in inner organs and the owner just can feel that “anything doesn’t work”. The only way to help our animals is the road of prevention, submit them for screening controls that let the Veterinary to do a rapid diagnosis.
Generally there are signals that we have to note and that can suggest a disease
• comparison of a lump, its growth or mutation
• wounds or ulcers that don’t heal
• changes in urination or defecation
• difficulty in urinating or in defecating
• difficulty in chewing and swallowing
• bleeding from different parts of the body
• loss of appetite and loss of weight
• difficulty in breathing or cough
• halitosis and loss of blood and drool from the mouth
The only way to be sure of the disease, as we already told, is a veterinary examination; the cytological examination, non-invasive and painless, usually allows to identify the major of tumors, the biopsy allows to have a definitive diagnosis. Many animals are submitted to x-ray examination to see the presence of a secondary disease (metastasis) to the lung or bowels. The x-ray doesn’t allow to identify injury smaller than 1 cm. 
How to deal with tumor?After a diagnosis, and after the identification of the kind of tumor, the possibilities of cure will be decided with the veterinary, the strategy must keep in mind many factors, like the progression of the disease, where the tumor is, presence of metastasis, age of the animal. The most important thing however, is the well-being of the animal.
Sadly, one can encounter in inauspicious diagnosis, that make impossible an intervention, for example a dog affected by splenic hemangiosarcomas, can seem fine till the tumor breaks and creates a cardio-circulatory imbalance that can bring to the collapse or to death..
Surgery is the most effective therapy for animal cancerIn case of benign tumor, the therapy is the surgery, that allows to remove the totality of the tumoral cells. When we have a malignant tumor, can be necessary to remove a big part of tissue around the mass, to guarantee an intervention that remove all the malignant cells.
One of the problems that we can see at this point, is the lack of tissue necessary to close the wound, this makes difficult the healing in short time and submits the animal to long convalescence, the risk is the necessity of more surgical operations for medical complications or dehiscence.
From now on, the procedure it’s almost the same in a surgical operation, we need to follow the veterinary’s recommendations to allow a rapid healing of the wound, like to limit the physical activity for the first 7/10 days, don’t change the diet, using an Elizabethan collar and following the instruction for drugs administration.