In a previous article, I talked about how a recent study is trying to understand why golden retrievers are so prone to certain cancers. By understanding the issue, these doctors might be able to extend the lifespan of these loyal companions. Until that day comes, if your golden retriever has cancer now, and you are at a loss at what to do, I will try to provide some general advice. But please remember that I am not a vet and I only offer suggestions.
One in three dogs will develop cancer, according to the National Canine Cancer Foundation. Cancer occurs in both mixed breed and purebred dogs (depending on the cancer, some breeds like Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Boxers, Boston Terriers, and Golden Retrievers are considered at high risk). Canine cancer can happen at any age but most often it occurs in older dogs.
Cancer is a disease where cells grow out of control, invade surrounding tissue, and can spread. Just like in humans, cancer can take many forms in dogs. The disease can be localized (in one area) or generalized (spread throughout the body). Cancer is considered multifactorial, which means it has no known single cause but heredity and the environment are thought to be factors.
According to the American Kennel Club’s Canine Health Foundation, the most common types of canine cancer include:
• Malignant Histiocytosis
• Mammary Cancer
• Mast Cell Tumors
• Prostate Cancer
• Transitional Cell Carcinoma
Canine cancer can be treated using surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy. However, the results of these treatments vary. The best thing you can do is to catch the disease in its early stages, before it spreads. Lastly, early detection is critical for successful treatment and recovery.
One of the most common ways dog owners detect cancer is by finding a lump or a mass on their dog (the dog typically isn’t bothered by the lump). But it’s important to clarify, just because you find a lump, doesn’t mean its cancer. Still, a veterinarian should investigate any lump as soon as possible.
The National Canine Cancer Foundation says there are 10 warning signs your dog might have cancer:
• Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
• Sores that don’t heal
• Weight loss
• Loss of appetite
• Bleeding or discharge from anybody opening
• Offensive odor
• Difficulty eating or swallowing
• Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
• Persistent lameness or stiffness
• Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating.
Picture taken from: http://www.vetstreet.com/
If you find a lump or your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, please see your vet immediately! If it’s confirmed your dog has cancer, it’s advised to get a second opinion, just to be sure and see what your options are.
While not all cancers can be prevented, there are certain steps pet owners can take to help their dogs have a lower risk of developing it. For example, having your dog spayed or neutered at a young age can help prevent reproductive cancers. Some veterinary experts encourage giving your dog antioxidants in supplement form like vitamins A, C, E, beta carotene, lycopene, and the mineral selenium to help ward off cancer. Healthy nutrition and exercise are also believed to help prevent cancer from developing.