Cancer is common. Hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats are diagnosed with cancer each year, yet shock is a typical reaction among caretakers who learn that their pet has cancer. It is the leading natural cause of death in dogs. Studies show that of the 64 million pet dogs in the United States, approximately 50% of all dogs will be affected by some type of cancer in their lifetime, and 80% of dogs over the age of 10 will die from cancer. Estimates indicate that cancer occurs at least as frequently in veterinary patients as in humans. The dismal statistics go on and on. There are, however, two pieces of good news. First, there are precautions that you can take to lower your pet’s risk for developing cancer. Second, if your pet is diagnosed with cancer, there are options available to you.
Until the past decade, pets diagnosed with cancer were generally not given treatment. In fact, until 15 years ago, veterinary oncology didn’t even exist as a board certified subspecialty of veterinary medicine. Now, state of the art cancer treatment for pets is nearly on a par with human cancer treatment. Board certified veterinary oncologists across the country are collaborating with one another, with human oncologists, and with medical and pharmaceutical researchers on a variety of initiatives. Veterinary and medical schools are partnering to find new treatments for malignancies from lymphoma and melanoma to brain and bladder cancer which naturally occur in both man and dogs. Comparative oncology has emerged as a promising means to help treat and cure certain forms of cancer.