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I remember watching a movie from the 1980’s “St. Elmo’s Fire” and in that movie filled with

brat-packers there was a character who was the mother of one of the recent college grads who every time she had something horrible or horrific to say she would whisper the key word. One of those words was the “c” word.  Cancer.  For some reason that image has stuck with me

all these many years. Well while the “c” word is horrible and horrific for both humans and pets it is by no means the end.


Let’s first clean up some terminology often used interchangeably with cancer. The term neoplasia is any uncontrolled abnormal growth of tissues or cells in the body. The proper term for this growth is called a neoplasm which is often called a tumor. These neoplasms can be non-malignant (benign), or malignant (cancerous). These non-malignant neoplasms do not grow aggressively. They do not attack surrounding body tissue, and do not spread throughout the body via the blood or lymphatic system. The term tumor is usually used to describe the area of swelling or mass associated with the neoplasm.


Neoplasia is a very common among our pets especially as they age. Malignant neoplasia is responsible for nearly half of all deaths of pets over the age of ten. Dogs get cancer at the same rate as the human population while cats develop cancer at a slightly lower rate than humans.


Here are some various types of Neoplasia.

  • Lymphoma-A lymphoma is one of the most common types of neoplasia in our pets. It is typically an enlargement of one or more lymph nodes in the body.


  • Abdominal- A neoplasia in the abdominal cavity is also very common. Unfortunately, this is a neoplasia that is very difficult to make an early diagnosis. An early warning sign is sudden weight loss.


  • Bone- A neoplasia of the bone is usually seen in large breed dogs older than seven years of age. This neoplasia is rarely seen in cats. This neoplasia usually attacks the bone near a joint. Early warning signs are lameness, swelling at or near the joint and continual pain at or near the site.


  • Skin- A neoplasia of the skin is very common in older dogs but rarely seen in cats. When they are seen in cats they are almost always malignant. They are rarely malignant in dogs.


  • Mammary Gland- A neoplasia in the mammary gland is a serious thing. More than half of all neoplasia in dogs are malignant and more than 85% of neoplasms in cats are malignant. You can greatly reduce the risk of this form of cancer by spaying your pet before they reach one year of age.


  • Mouth & Nose- Neoplasia of the mouth is rare in cats but is not uncommon in dogs. Warning signs are a tumor on the gums, bleeding coming from the gums, a foul order in the mouth, and difficulty eating and chewing. Many of these tumors are malignant so consult your veterinarian immediately in order to begin an aggressive treatment plan. Neoplasia may also develop in the sinus cavities causing severe swelling to the face and bleeding from the nose. This too should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian immediately for quick diagnosis and treatment.

Warning Signs

  • Weight Loss
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Difficulty eating, chewing, or swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Difficulty defecating
  • Continual lameness or stiffness
  • Wounds that do not heal
  • Abnormal swellings that continue to grow or remain
  • Bloody discharge from any body cavity
  • Unusual pungent odor
  • Loss of energy



Article 2: Cancer

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