The C Word
Cancer. It's a word that puts fear into all. Considering that a third of all animals, including humans, will ultimately die from it we should be used to it but we still fear it like no other illness. Part of the problem is that treatment seems so ineffective and despite the ability of modern diagnostic techniques to diagnose almost any disease accurately it is still difficult to detect.
One of the major problems is that by the time the symptoms of cancer are obvious it is usually already very advanced and that makes treatment all the more difficult. Given that therapy can be very expensive and is likely to be less effective in animals than in humans, early detection is essential. Regular routine check-ups at the vets and assessments at home can help to detect cancer before it is too advanced. Symptoms to look for include: unusual lumps and bumps, non-resolving illness, loss of weight and appetite, increased thirst, persistant diarrhoea or vomiting and behavioural changes.
However, help is at hand. An innovative blood test can now be performed to detect the commonest form of cancer in dogs, lymphoma, before it is too advanced.
The following breeds of dog are at particular risk from lymphoma:
The test is most frequently performed when there is a suspicion of lymphoma from other tests or symptoms but is advised in all the breeds listed above at regular intervals from middle age or where there is a family history.
All that is required to perform the test is a small blood sample which is painless to take in a normal consultation and often can be added to a routine blood profile if requested. The fee for the test varies but is currently around £65. Lymphoma can also occur in cats and other pets but currently there is no test in these species.
Treatment for cancer will vary; sometimes involving surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy or a combination of all three. Lymphoma is one of the few cancers in animals that responds well to chemotherapy alone. Once symptoms of lymphoma have become obvious the usual survival time with no treatment is no more than 6 weeks. The chemotherapy used most frequently can prolong survival for 6 months but the advanced treatment protocols we use can extend that to over 18 months. We know that with earlier detection this survival time can be extended further and in some cases can even be curative.
We are now also participating in a DNA testing service* for dog breeds particularly at risk from other types of cancer to help research that it is hoped will be able to identify which dogs will be susceptible in the future.The test is free of charge, is not invasive and involves collecting just a drop of blood or a cheek swab. If you would like to help in this important research, or find out if your own dog is at risk, please contact us if you own one of the following breeds:
* for a limited time, check first to confirm this service is still avaialable
At St Martins Veterinary Clinic we are experienced in using advanced chemotherapy and are in touch with some of the leading cancer specialists in the country and are able to refer your pet if it is more appropropriate for example for radiotherapy. Many pet owners are reluctant to subject their animals to treatment for cancer but in reality it only causes the unpleasant symptoms experienced by humans in a small percentage of cases and in contrast it can actually make them feel much better, so there is little to fear.
If you would like more information on cancer screening please call the clinic.
St Martins Veterinary Clinic
126 Station Road
Tel.: 01895 444400
Fax: 01895 431520
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