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November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month

66November, as well as being Adopt a Senior Pet Month, is also Pet Cancer Awareness Month.  The awareness campaign was started in 2005 by the VPI Pet Insurance company (http://www.petinsurance.com). The VPI website states that cancer is "the No. 1 disease-related killer of dogs and cats. Fortunately, early detection and treatment of cancer in pets can prolong life and increase chances of survival." For the thousands of pet owners who have had to deal with cancer in their pets, this is a message that hits particularly close to home.

The exact causes of cancer in humans is not full known, let alone what causes it in our pets.  It's thought that a generally healthy lifestyle - plenty of exercise and healthy, species appropriate foods, can go at least some way towards helping to prevent this devastating disease.

But it seems, unfortunately, that even amazing care doesn't completely eliminate the chances of our loved ones developing this devastating disease.  Cancer, whether it be in humans or our pets, touches the lives of almost everyone at one point or another.  In 2008 Chris and I lost our beloved house rabbit, Zeus, to lymphoma.  He was only 2 years old.

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Early detection is key when it comes to cancer.  Cancer can't always be cured, but when it can't early detection can help ensure that the remainder of your pet's days are lived out in comfort. The Colorado State University Animal Cancer Center (http://www.csuanimalcancercenter.org/about) provides the following list of the top ten warning signs of cancer in pets:

Top Ten Warning Signs of Cancer in Pet Animals

  1. Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow Pet your pet! This is the best way to find lumps, bumps or swellings that could be anywhere on the body.
  2. Sores that do not heal Non-healing sores can be a sign of infection or cancer. Your veterinarian can determine the reason why the sore is not healing.
  3. Weight loss If your pet is not on a diet but is losing weight, illness could be to blame.
  4. Loss of appetite It is not normal for pets to lose their appetite. This may be a sign of illness.
  5. Bleeding or discharge from any body opening Bleeding can occur for numerous reasons - most of which are abnormal. Vomiting and diarrhea are abnormal discharges as well!
  6. Offensive odor This is a common sign especially for tumors in the mouth, nose or anus.
  7. Difficulty eating or swallowing This is a common sign of cancers of the mouth and neck region.
  8. Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina This can be one of the first signs that your pet is not feeling well.
  9. Persistent lameness There could be many causes of lameness including nerve, muscle or bone cancer.
  10. Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating If your pet experiences any of these symptoms please have them evaluated by a veterinarian.

If your pet exhibits any of these signs, or any other abnormal signs, don't freak out!  It's important to get your pet to a qualified vet asap, but remain as calm as possible - for your own sake as well as your pets.  Although the signs listed above can be indicators of cancers, they can also be caused by other, easier to treat, conditions.

No matter what the cause, the sooner issues with your pet can be diagnosed the greater the chance your pet will be able to be treated successfully.

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