Tag Archives: Cancer in Dogs

Why should I desex my dog?

There are many advantages to having your dog desexed.

Desexing prevents the conception of puppies and eliminates the sexual urge.

We remove the ovaries and uterus in the female and the testes in males.   Dogs and bitches are usually desexed at 6 months of age although some are done earlier.

The hormone testosterone takes about a month to decline after castration.  Once it is out of the system desexed male dogs are less likely to wander and have no interest in bitches on heat.  Because they escape or wander less they are less likely to get run over, get involved in fights or lift their legs on every post.

A testis that has not descended into the scrotum has a higher risk of developing a cancer and should be removed as early as possible.

Heat periods or seasons in bitches occur about twice a year and last 3 weeks each time.

Bitches on heat often surprise their owners with their determined attempts to escape and find a mate.

Desexed bitches do not come on heat and cannot conceive puppies.

Desexing also prevents pyometron, an overwhelming infection of the uterus that makes older bitches very ill. Removal of the uterus is the best treatment for pyometron but general anaesthesia for the surgery is a big risk in an old, already sick bitch.

Desexing reduces the risk of breast cancer.

The desexing of females is least complicated when they are not on heat, pregnant or overweight. We recommend desexing bitches at 6 months of age before they come on heat and while the uterus is still immature.

Desexing is done under general anaesthesia. Dogs must be in good health and fasted for twelve hours prior to surgery. General anaesthesia always carries a slight risk but with modern anaesthetic agents, this risk is minimal.  A vet examines all dogs on admission to hospital and before sedation. Discuss any worries with the vet and let us know if your dog is not in peak health.

We do the surgery during the morning and keep your dog in hospital under observation for the afternoon.  A discharge time is arranged on admission.  A vet or veterinary nurse will discuss aftercare with you at discharge.

Once desexed and over the surgery a dog’s metabolism slows down.  Cut the total amount of food fed per day by 30% and make sure you continue with normal exercise routines.

 

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!

Feline Leukaemia

Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) is an important viral infection of young cats in multi-cat households. Over the last few years infection has become less common.

What diseases are associated with FeLV?

FeLV infection suppresses the immune system making the cat susceptible to secondary infections and chronic diseases that would not affect a normal healthy cat. These include mouth ulceration, cat flu, and fungal infections.

Cancers of the white blood cells and solid tumours such as lymphoma cause 10-25% of FeLV deaths.

Anaemia and other blood cell abnormalities are very common in FeLV infected cats. Other FeLV-related diseases include abortion, fading kittens, diarrhoea, neurological or nervous system signs, and immune-mediated disease.

Around 80-90% of persistently FeLV-infected cats will die within 3.5 years of diagnosis.

How is the virus transmitted?

The virus is transmitted by direct contact between cats during grooming or sharing of litter trays and food bowls over a long period of time.

The virus is fragile and does not survive for long in the environment.

An infected queen passes the virus on to all her kittens if she carries them to term. However, this is uncommon as infection with FeLV usually causes infertility or abortion.

What happens when a cat is exposed to FeLV?

Not all cats exposed to FeLV go on to develop FeLV-related diseases. Most cats eliminate the virus from the body, although some remain latently infected for a few months before they  conquer the virus completely.

In cat colonies where the virus is endemic only 30% of cats are persistently infected with FeLV and go on to develop FeLV-related disease. These cats are responsible for the transmission of FeLV to other cats.

How do we diagnose FeLV?

A test at the surgery detects FeLV virus in the blood of a persistently infected cat.

A negative result is always negative. Your vet will assess the predictive value of a positive result by taking your cat’s environment, housemates and outside access into account.

Cats in the process of eliminating the virus will test positive. A second test performed 8-12 weeks after the first test confirms persistent infection.

Is there any treatment for FeLV infection?

There is no treatment that eliminates the virus from the body.

Infected cats should be desexed and confined indoors to prevent exposure to infectious agents and other cats.

Because FeLV-infected cats are more susceptible to disease, vaccination for the common viruses that cause cat flu and enteritis is very important.

We treat secondary infections and other problems like mouth ulcers as they arise.

Most FeLV-infected cats eventually die of their infection or we elect to euthanase them if they are suffering.

Can we prevent infection?

If possible do not house your cat with a known infected cat. Any new cat to the household should test negative for FeLV.

If all the cats in the house are FeLV negative, confinement indoors will prevent casual exposure to wandering cats with the virus.

Breeders may prevent FeLV infection by blood testing all cats and isolating infected individuals.

Vaccination of cats in contact with other infected or potentially infected cats is advisable. As with other vaccines, an initial course of two injections is required, and annual boosters are necessary to maintain immunity.

 

Hairballs?

Hairballs are overrated as a problem in cats.  A true hairball is hair wrapped in saliva and requires no treatment.  Hairballs almost never cause illness in pet cats.

On the other hand we should see your cat if she vomits frequently – whatever the vomitus is! If she is turning her nose up at her dinner or hiding then we should see her as soon as possible. Normal cats eat several times a day so even a single day of poor appetite is significant.

If she vomits a lot but doesn’t feel poorly she may still have a problem. Some cats are very sensitive to specific proteins like chicken, beef or lamb. A change to a diet free of the common proteins that cause hypersensitivity or to one that is specially treated to reduce reactions often helps these cats.

Often the only sign of inflammatory bowel disease or cancers of the bowel is frequent vomiting. Eventually affected cats lose weight or stop eating, but this is when the disease is well advanced. If a cat does not respond within a few weeks to a change of diet as mentioned above then we investigate more closely.

Herbal treatment

Pet owners who prefer herbal treatments or have animals with chronic problems will be pleased to hear that  animal herbalist Nicki Froescheis, who is a German-trained veterinarian, has moved to Canberra. Nicki has European postgraduate training in herbal treatment for pets.

Nicki says that herbal treatment is useful for chronic diseases such as arthritis, bladder inflammation, palliative treatment for cancers, immune disorders, dementia and skin diseases as well as many other problems. Herbs are not much help in life threatening conditions or problems which come on suddenly.

Nicki assesses each individual patient and tailors the herb formula accordingly. Appointments can be made with Nicki on 0404 127 973 and she will arrange to meet you at Hall Vet Surgery.

Nicki’s own website is at www.herbalpetcare.com.au

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.

Mast Cell Tumours

Mast Cell Tumours are aggressive skin cancers and common in dogs. They can look like anything: a patch of dry skin, a raised red itchy area, a wart or a lump.

Boxers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers have a higher than average risk of Mast Cell Tumours.  Other breeds affected include the Bull Terrier, English Bulldog and Sharpei but we see Mast Cell Tumours in all breeds.

Mast Cell Tumours release chemicals randomly, causing local redness, itch and swelling that comes and goes.

To diagnose a Mast Cell Tumour we take a sample of cells, stain them and examine them under the microscope.  Most Mast Cell Tumours contain characteristic granules that are easily recognised.  If we have any doubts we recommend removal anyway.

The lesion is removed with a wide excision because Mast Cell Tumours send out long microscopic fingers into the surrounding tissue.  It is sent to the pathologist who confirms the diagnosis, makes sure we have removed it all and grades it.

The grade of the tumour reflects how malignant the tumour is.  A low grade tumour is unlikely to have spread and, as long as the entire tumour has been removed, is unlikely to recur.

About 25% of all Mast Cell Tumours are higher grade.  They invade locally and can spread.  Without supplementary chemotherapy, the mean survival time is 18 weeks.

Chemotherapy is effective and median survival times are good.