Hola Dallas Voice readers! As always, thank you for taking the time to read my column. I know how crazy these times are, but I hope everyone is hanging in there. During my last column, we talked about COVID-19 and how it relates to our pets. This time, we are shifting gears to another important topic.
May is National Pet Month. To many of us, our fur babies are our kids and a vital part of our families. Now some of us may not be aware that May is also “Pet Cancer Awareness Month.” I wish none of us had to endure seeing anyone go through cancer, but the sad reality is it happens. With our pets’ average life spans continuing to increase due to advances in the medical and technology fields, we are seeing more and more of our pets go through cancer at least once in their lifetimes. It almost feels like cancer is a way that life reminds us that no matter how hard we try, we all have an “expiration date.”
A lot of people ask about that one test that diagnoses “cancer.” While I don’t doubt that technology will get us there at some point, our current reality is that no single test can determine if our babies might have cancer anywhere in their bodies. For that, we have to look into symptoms and potentially identify the source of the ailment then follow up with different diagnostic tests, ranging from blood work and radiographs to advanced imaging and specialized testing.
Even though the word “cancer” scares us all, not all types of cancer are terminal. Some types can be benign, meaning that they are usually not life threatening, and surgical excision or removal may prove curative. The more complicated types of cancer may require chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
That being said, each type of cancer is different. The challenge for us as pet parents comes when we have to determine how far we are willing to go to help our babies. As humans, sometimes we can be selfish by wanting our fur kids to live forever. But sometimes we have to take a step back and determine if what is medically recommended is what is actually best for our babies.
This needs to be an honest conversation between you and your veterinarian.
Most of our fur babies that develop cancer are usually at least 7 or 8 years of age (dogs and cats). That being said, cancer can also be seen in our younger babies, too. We usually associate cancer with obvious masses that can be easily seen on the skin, but many types of cancer are masses inside the body or microscopic masses you can’t see with the naked eye.
Technically, any organ can develop different types of cancer. This is why it is important to have your veterinarian examine your baby at least every six months and perform a blood work study at least every six to 12 months. I have some pet parents that perform radiographs on their senior babies once yearly to be as thorough as possible.
I also recommend that you thoroughly examine every inch of your senior babies’ skin at least once a month at home. Parents are very commonly the first ones to notice something is not OK with their babies, so this thorough “mass check” is crucial for early detection. If you notice what may be a lump on your baby or notice appetite issues, weight loss or any other issues, please visit your veterinarian right away.
I know this is a depressing topic, especially during these unreal times. But we need to make sure that our loved ones are as happy and healthy as they can be to continue being part of our families, especially during these trying times. While cancer can be a sensitive subject, please know that we must not focus on the current negative reality, but also on the amazing years we have had with our loved ones. We only live once, and we need to cherish all of those beautiful moments that we have enjoyed together.
Life is not a still picture of our final moments, but a series of experiences that lead us through life while changing others as we navigate together. There is always something positive in everything, don’t forget that! Abrazos, until next time!
Dr. Josh owns Isla Veterinary Boutique Hospital in 14380 Marsh Ln. Ste. 110 Addison. Call him at 972-738-1111 or visit IslaVet.com.