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Barks & Mewsings

The Trupanion blog

The Importance of Pet Cancer Awareness

By: Alyssa Little

We all want our pets to be happy and healthy. A sick pet can be financially and emotionally draining for the entire family. Likewise, an unexpected cancer diagnosis can leave pet owners feeling unsure of what the future holds.

In honor of National Pet Cancer Awareness Month, we at Trupanion want to provide a resource guide for pet owners. We sat down with Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Sarah Nold to learn more about the importance of pet cancer awareness for the health of your furry friends.

How pet cancer awareness can help your furry family members

How is a pet diagnosed with cancer?

A cancer diagnosis is scary for all involved. Nold weighs in on how a diagnosis can occur and how it may differ depending on the type of cancer.

"How a pet is diagnosed with cancer depends somewhat on the type of cancer, as some types of cancer present with a mass and others do not. In addition, some masses are located externally (such as on the skin or in the mouth) and can be more easily examined.”

Each diagnosis differs, depending on the pet. For example, some pets have a one-step diagnosis while other pets require further testing and analysis. Regardless of the diagnostic outcome, the advancements available in veterinary medicine help provide remission for many pets.

“Conversely, other masses are located internally (such as in the chest or abdomen) and may require advanced imaging, like an ultrasound or MRI,” says Nold. “After identifying a mass, the next step is often to take a small sample to look at under a microscope to help determine whether the mass is benign or cancerous.”

Sometimes this small sample isn’t enough to diagnose by and the mass may need to be surgically removed and submitted for a pathologist to identify. “For types of cancer where a mass is not easily found, they are usually diagnosed based on findings from blood work. However, sometimes other diagnostics, like getting a sample from the bone marrow, may be necessary," cites Nold.

Signs of cancer in pets

While the signs of cancer may vary from pet to pet, any change in your pet’s behavior or sign of discomfort merits seeking medical care. For example, the signs of cancer depend on the type of cancer, according to Nold.

If your pet is experiencing any of these medical signs, please seek the expertise and guidance of your veterinarian.

  • Mass on the skin
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures

Trupanion and pet cancer claims

We sat down with Trupanion’s data team to further look at cancer pet claims in our database:

  • 119,566 cancer claims received
  • $53,189,077 paid out by the Trupanion policy for cancer claims

Breeds most commonly claiming for cancer

  1. Boxer
  2. Golden Retriever
  3. Boston Terrier
  4. Labrador Retriever
  5. Mixed Breed
  6. German Shepherd
  7. Mixed Breed
  8. Miniature Schnauzer
  9. English Bulldog
  10. Large Mixed Breed (55 – 90lbs when full grown)

The importance of a family support system when a pet is diagnosed with cancer

When your pet is diagnosed with a condition like cancer, the support of family and friends is essential for the well-being of your family.

“As with any illness that requires expensive and long-term care, it is important to have a support system in place for you as the primary caretaker,” states Nold. “Often, just having someone you can talk to who knows what your beloved pet is going through can help.”

Also, some treatments may require giving multiple medications a day and frequent trips to your veterinarian for rechecks. Because of this, you may sometimes need help with medication administration or drop-off and pick-up from your veterinarian.

A treatment plan for your pet

Not every pet will have the same treatment plan, as a treatment plan is unique to each’s pet’s cancer diagnosis. Nold weighs in on what to expect on the best course of action for your furry friend.

“The best course of treatment in terms of “gold standard” can only be determined after the type of cancer (as well as the stage/grade of cancer in some cases) has been diagnosed. Some types of cancer can be treated with only surgical removal and others may require more extensive treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

In some cases, your veterinarian may refer your pet to an oncology specialist. Ultimately the best course of treatment also depends on your pet, in some cases you and your veterinarian may decide the “gold standard” for treatment may not be tolerated by your pet or isn’t available locally.”

Pet cancer awareness: essential for the health and wellness of your furry family member

Any medical diagnosis is stressful for pet owners. Naturally, a cancer diagnosis is no different. Most importantly, letting your pet know you’re there and giving them all the love and support can mean everything.

The expertise and guidance of your veterinarian, a family support system, and an early diagnosis can help your best friend get to a state of remission in the future.

A dog and cat snuggle

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Welcome to the Trupanion blog. A place to celebrate pets, pet health and medical insurance for cats and dogs.

This blog is designed to be a community where pet owners can learn and share. The views expressed in each post are the opinion of the author and not necessarily endorsed by Trupanion. Always consult your veterinarian for professional advice.

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