Category Archives: Cancer in Dogs

Aches and Pains – How Can We Tell?

Our pets can’t tell us what they are feeling in words, however through observing their body language, we can notice changes in their behaviour that may indicate pain.

Pain can occur with a vast array of chronic diseases, some not so obvious, for example dental disease, arthritis, back pain, ear infections, pancreatitis and cancer.

Image result for pain in animals

Top five signs of chronic pain are:

  1. Decreased Activity. Is your dog less enthusiastic for walks lately? Does your cat lay around more than usual or have they stopped climbing on to their favourite perch? Be careful not to assume this is normal ageing. There could be a medical condition that will improve with treatment.
  2. Changes in habits. Is your cat grooming less? Has your dog stopped jumping into the car or onto furniture? Are they interacting less with family? Reluctance to use stairs or groom can often occur with back or joint pain.
  3. Loss of toilet training. Dogs and cats might start to toilet inside if it hurts too much to walk to their usual spot, squeeze through the dog door or navigate steps. It could be painful to squat.
  4. Lameness. Is your pet stiff when getting out of bed, hunched or favouring a leg? You might see them shifting their weight or unable to stand in one place for long if their joints are aching.
  5. Aggression. Perhaps your pet is growling or snapping when petted to protect a painful area. Are they avoiding a playmate who asks for a tumble because it’s going to hurt?

Detecting chronic pain in your pet can be challenging. Body language is their only way to tell us when something is wrong, physically or emotionally.

Watch carefully for changes in their behaviour and contact the practice to arrange a check up if you notice a change in your pet’s behaviour.

Another reason to give up smoking

Cats and dogs who live with smokers have a higher risk of developing cancer.

The risk of lymphoma, the most common cancer in cats, is tripled in cats from smoking households. Squamous cell carcinomas of the mouth are also more prevalent in cats exposed to tobacco smoke.

Dogs living in a household with a smoker are more likely to have a chronic cough to match their owner’s. Most sobering of all, they have a higher risk of developing nasal and lung cancer.

Scientists from all over the world have detected nicotine metabolites in the family pets of smokers. The more smokers and smoking in the household, the higher the levels of nicotine metabolites found.

Carbon material, a byproduct of smoking, has also been found in these pets’ lungs.

As if we needed more reasons to give up smoking!

Teddy vs bone cancer

Teddy waits for his treat

Fun-loving Teddy is a regular visitor to Hall Vet Surgery. He is a much-loved member and protector of a young family, as gentle as he is outgoing.

At age three Teddy started limping on one of his hind legs. At first his owners thought he’d hurt himself on one of his wild runs around the lake. We prescribed rest and pain relief and thought he’d soon get over it, but he got lamer and lamer.

Perhaps he had ruptured a ligament in his knee, a common injury in busy dogs. We anaesthetised him and manipulated it. The instability we associate with cruciate ligament damage was missing so we took X-rays of the whole leg.

The X-rays confused even the specialists. A lesion in his long bone could have been a bone infection or bone cancer. A biopsy of the bone confirmed the worst – Teddy had osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer.

By this time Teddy was withdrawing into himself and spending a lot of his time trying to rest. Pain relief medication helped a little but it was obvious that the cancer was causing him much pain.

To alleviate the pain and prevent further spread his owners decided we should amputate his leg. Teddy’s relief was immediate. He bounced home next morning as if he’d been made to run on three legs.

However we knew that the osteosarcoma had probably already spread to his lymph nodes and lungs. Although we could not see any metastases in his lung X-rays, we knew they were probably there. Without further treatment Teddy had only 6 weeks of life left.

The veterinary oncologist suggested a chemotherapy regime that would extend his life expectancy. His family did not want to do anything that would make him feel unwell. We reassured them that chemo for pets is designed to ensure that they have a good quality of life. Doses are tailored to suit the patient and reduced if they affect blood cell production or cause nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea.

Teddy came in weekly for his chemotherapy. Although he had a few days off his food in the 12 weeks, he came into the Surgery with a wag in his tail every single time, delighted to see us and clearly enjoying life.

So far we have detected no recurrence of the cancer at his monthly rechecks. His family is delighted with his response to the treatment – and so are his fans at Hall Vet Surgery.


Chemotherapy And Cytotoxic Drugs

What is chemotherapy?

Cancer chemotherapy uses cytotoxic drugs to kill cancer cells. Unfortunately they also affects normal rapidly multiplying cells like those that line the gut and bone marrow cells that produce blood cells.

What is cancer?

Cancer is a disease of uncontrolled growth of cells. Cells are the basic structural units of the body. Normally they replicate to replace themselves as they age. In cancer a particular cell line multiplies in an inappropriate and uncontrolled manner.

What are cytotoxic drugs?

Many anti-cancer drugs are cytotoxic. Cytotoxic means “damaging to cells”. These drugs block cell growth and division and thus prevent cancer cells from multiplying. Cytotoxic drugs act only on rapidly dividing cells such as cancer cells but they can also harm normal body cells.

What side effects do cytotoxic drugs have?

Because cytotoxic drugs affect all rapidly dividing cells in the body, normal cells in blood-producing bone marrow, the gut, skin and reproductive organs are also affected.

Many animals on chemotherapy experience no side effects. However, they are more prone to infections, bleeding, vomiting, diarrhoea and loss of appetite.

Animals do not lose all their fur with chemotherapy drugs. Reproductive function is usually not relevant.

Some cytotoxic drugs cause liver, kidney or heart problems. The most serious side effect of chemotherapy is infection. We monitor for these problems with regular blood tests.

Am I at risk of exposure from these drugs?

Cytotoxic drugs are very potent and must be handled with care. We admit animals to hospital to administer most chemotherapy. Some are given by injection while other drugs are given as capsules or tablets.

Do not to handle urine or faeces after any chemotherapy session.

This information is of a general nature only, and must not be used as veterinary advice except where directed by your veterinarian. Hall Veterinary Surgery does not warrant the suitability of this information for specific cases. If your animal is unwell or you want to act on this information, please contact us on 6230 2223.

Sunloving pooches beware!

We have seen an upsurge in dogs with sun induced skin cancers in the last month or so.  Most of these are on the bellies of  Staffies or Jack Russells that love to lie on their backs in the sun.These cancers can be difficult to remove completely if they are not caught early and will recur if the sunbaking continues.

The types of skin cancers include squamous cells carcinomas which look like scaley skin in the early stages and cancers of the tiny skin blood vessels which look like bright bruises or red areas in the skin.

If you find a suspicious area on your dog’s belly ask us to check it out earlier rather than later.