May is cancer awareness month!

posted on May 01, 2015 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

Cancer is a disease that touches many of our lives.  Unfortunately, our four legged furry friends are not immune to it either.  According to www.petcancerawareness.org, about 1 in 4 dogs will develop cancer in it’s lifetime, and being the number 1 natural cause of death in older pets, about 50% of dogs over the age of 10 will die of cancer.

Just like in humans, early detection is key.  Symptoms of cancer can vary widely, as cancer can affect almost any system or area of the body.  Things such as vomiting, diarrhea, straining to defecate, weight loss, swelling or weight gain, non-healing sores, pale gums, limping, weakness, lethargy, lumps or bumps, bleeding, or coughing could all indicate a tumor.  It should be noted that many of these signs are very non specific however and may indicate many other illness or issues as well.

For this reason, we recommend yearly to semi-annual examinations in all pets, regardless of whether they are “due for shots”.  A yearly to twice yearly exam allows us to look in your pet’s mouth, feel the skin and subcutaneous layers for masses, check lymph node size, weigh your pet, perform a rectal examination, and palpate the abdomen for internal changes.

We also recommend yearly to semi-annual bloodwork.  Lab tests can help look for anemia, can see changes in white blood cell counts which could indicate lymphoma or leukemia, look for changes in liver or kidney enzymes, checks electrolytes, blood sugar, and blood proteins.  While there is not a test that looks specifically for cancer, these tests can alert us to changes occurring in the body which serve as early indicators that something else is going on.

If we find lumps or bumps or masses, we may recommend a fine needle aspirate or biopsy to collect a sample to test so we know what it is.  If internal changes are found, x-rays and/or ultrasound may be recommended.

If we do diagnose your pet with cancer, surgery to remove it is often the first treatment.  Catching it early means it’s small, and less likely to have spread, both of which increase the chance of success.  Sometimes follow up such as chemotherapy or radiation is recommended as well.

Since cancer is so prevalent in our pets, it is imperative that we find and diagnose it early to offer your pet the best chance at a cure or good quality of life.  If you notice any of the changes above, or your pet develops a new lump or bump, it is always a good idea to have a doctor examine them.  Please give us a call today!

Another New Year, Another Year Older

posted on January 02, 2013 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

As January rolls in, we find ourselves and our pets becoming another year older.  Did you know that your pet ages more rapidly than we do, and can be affected by some of the same age related diseases?  Dogs over 50 pounds are considered seniors after the age of 5, and dogs under 50 pounds and cats are considered seniors after the age of 7.  Since they age quicker, we recommend yearly to twice a year blood work and examinations to help us detect health issues early.

petagegraph

There are a number of tests we may recommend based on your pet’s age, symptoms, and health status.  These include a variety of blood tests such as a complete blood count, chemistry panel, and thyroid tests, a urine test, or other tests as necessary.

A complete blood count, or CBC, is a blood test that looks at the number, size, shape, and color of the red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets or clotting cells, and the amount of protein in the blood.  This test can help alert us to problems such as anemia, infections, clotting disorders, dehydration, blood parasites, or even cancer.

A chemistry profile is another blood test.  It looks at liver and kidney values to help alert us to problems such as liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes, other metabolic diseases, and even cancer.  We may recommend a chemistry profile before starting your pet on medications, as many medications used to treat the diseases seen in older animals are processed by the liver and/or kidneys.  We need to monitor the values to make sure your pet can safely handle the medications before and during the treatment.

Thyroid tests look at the amount of thyroid hormone circulating in the blood.  Older dogs are prone to low thyroid hormone, which can lead to skin and hair problems and weight gain.  Older cats are prone to high thyroid hormone, which leads to signs such as vomiting and weight loss with an increased appetite.

A urinalysis is a test run on the urine looking for signs of infections, stones or crystals, or early signs of kidney disease.  It can also show signs of diabetes and liver disease.

These tests are important to help us monitor for signs of the many diseases that can affect older pets.  With careful monitoring we can help catch these problems early, which can help us mitigate the signs and give your pet a longer, healthier life.