Cancer and Your Pet
Cancer is a disease that is of concern to many people as they may have experienced it directly or indirectly. Our pets are also susceptible to cancer. Today large strides have been made in cancer treatment, and our pets can be cured of cancer, or at least be given the opportunity to live disease free for significant periods of time. We can provide quality of life for animals afflicted by these frightening diseases.
Cancers can take many forms, and there are various treatment and palliative options available to us. In some cases, cancers can be prevented by early sterilization. This significantly decreases the incidence of mammary and prostatic cancer. Certain breeds or lines of animals have an increased prevalence of cancer. White animals are more susceptible to solar radiation and skin cancer. Skin cancers, lymphoma, bone cancer and cancers of various organs, leukemia and many others are recognized in animals. Cancers can affect young and old animals. Early diagnosis and treatment are key elements in the fight against cancer. Frequent routine clinical examination can detect certain cancers early. We recommend six-month exams for your pets. If your pet develops any of the following: lumps, has weight loss, a loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lameness, abdominal swelling and shows lethargy. Your veterinarian can use various diagnostic tools to identify they type of tumor your pet may have. These could include blood-work, urinalysis, radiographs, ultrasound, needle aspirates, biopsies, and bone marrow studies. In certain cases advanced studies such as MRI’s, CT scans may be indicated.
Cancers and tumors may be benign or malignant, with the latter manifesting as infiltrative or having the capability to metastasize (spread). It is important that cancers be staged, both in order to determine the extent of the cancer and to determine appropriate treatment and prognosis. Staging involves investigating local and distant spread to lymph nodes, lungs, bone marrow and other organs.
Treatment options can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy or combinations of the above. In many instances, surgery may be curative. In certain cases, palliation is the goal. Chemotherapy is viewed as a treatment that causes harm by many people. Although chemotherapy has side effects, we have many tools at our disposal to eliminate or relieve them. Quality of life is important to us, and the bonus is if we manage to cure or get an animal in remission. Nausea, anorexia and immune suppression can generally be well managed or prevented. Radiation therapy can both cure and relieve pain from certain cancers such as bone cancer.
If you know what your pet’s enemy is, you can with your veterinarian take appropriate steps to combat it.
Dr. Louis Snijders graduated from Ondersteporrt, University of Pretoria in South Africa. His mother, Dr. Lorraine deJager, is also a veterinarian and since he took his first steps at a veterinary practice, Dr. Snijders has always wanted to make a difference in the quality of life for animals and seeing the joy on their owners’ faces.
Dr. Snijders is an Associate Veterinarian at Windcrest Animal Hospital and is part of the Critical Care & Emergency Care team. His most memorable experience in his veterinary career was doing three esophageal surgeries in one week shortly after graduating.
Dr. Snijders, wife Rachel, sons Anthonie and Tristan have a family of pets including Shinto, a Jack Russell Terrior; Regie a budgie; as well as Billy, Nanny, Casper and 160 other cashmere goats.
Dr. Snijders’ hobbies include classic cars, sport photography and farming. He is also an internationally qualified fencing referee and has participated as a fencer in various countries.