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    Canine Cancer Awareness: Support the #PinkPawLove

    • 5 min read

    Cancer. It’s a pet owner’s worst fear. It’s something we don’t think about until it happens to our own families. And it’s frighteningly common. According to the  American Veterinary Medical Association, one out of four dogs develops neoplasia at some point in their lives, and  almost 50% of dogs over 10 develop cancer. 

    Recently, we at Chopper and Otis felt those statistics with our beloved Chopper, who was diagnosed with a mast cell tumor in May. 

    Here is Chopper’s canine cancer story, information on cancer in dogs, and the actions we are taking to help make a difference in the lives of our furry companions. 

    Chopper’s Cancer Story

    At the end of last year, we found a bump on Chopper’s rear. At the time, it didn’t look aggressive or active, so we just monitored it. In April of this year, however, one side of his anal glands was really swollen. It was the same side as the little bump, even though the bump looked relatively calm. 

    A couple of weeks later, the anal gland ruptured, and we decided that it was time to remove the bump. After removing it in May and sending it to the lab for a biopsy, the doctors told us that it was a mast cell tumor (MCT). From June until August, the same gland continued to have infections, blockages, and extra growth. 

    It wasn’t until September that we could get in to see a specialist, who determined the new gland issues were not the recurring MCT that we feared but rather a chronic infection of the anal glands. 

    While this was a huge relief, the time it took to determine the issue—and the lack of studies and research dedicated to diagnosing canine cancer—was a major eye-opener. We wouldn’t have known Chopper had cancer if we hadn’t removed that little bump.

    What Is Canine Cancer?

    Canine cancer is an uncontrolled and abnormal growth that occurs in a dog’s cells or body tissues. While dogs can and do develop benign neoplasia—also known as tumors—it must be malignant for a cancer diagnosis. 

    Much like human cancer, dogs develop many of the common forms of cancer that befall people. These include but are not limited to:

    • Mast Cell Tumors: A type of skin cancer that often presents as inflammation and can occur anywhere on the body (like what Chopper had) 
    • Melanoma: Another form of skin cancer that often affects dogs’ mouths
    • Lymphoma:A lymphatic system cancer that affects lymph nodes, the spleen, bone marrow, the thymus gland, and other organs
    • Osteosarcoma:A common form of bone cancer in larger dog breeds

    Signs of Cancer in Dogs

    Catching cancer early is one of the best ways to give our furry friends a fighting chance. If we hadn’t taken Chopper in to get the bump looked at, cancer could have spread and become much harder to treat. 

    As such, here are some signs of cancer to watch out for:

    • Lumps and bumps that change in shape, size, or appearance
    • Wounds that won’t heal
    • Lethargy
    • Loss of appetite
    • Unexplainable weight loss
    • Bleeding and/or discharge
    • Difficulty urinating or releasing bowel movements
    • Shallow or strained breathing
    • Continuous diarrhea and vomiting 
    • Swollen abdomen

    Keep in mind, these potential signs of cancer can also coincide with other types of illnesses or ailments. If you see any of these symptoms in your dog, or if your dog ever behaves out of the ordinary in a drastic and prolonged way, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian right away. 

    How Is Canine Cancer Diagnosed?

    When we took Chopper in to have the mass removed, the doctors sent some of the tissues to the lab for a biopsy. This is a common practice for diagnosing the type of tumor in question. 

    The most common canine cancer screenings are as follows: 

    • Biopsies 
    • Blood tests
    • Cytology
    • X-rays
    • MRI scanning
    • Ultrasounds
    • CT scanning
    • PET scanning

    Many tumors can be observed by a trained professional under a microscope (known as cytology) to quickly analyze the tissues or cells and give nervous pet owners a speedy answer as to whether or not their dog has cancer. Other times, only a biopsy will give veterinarians the information needed to diagnose your pet. 

    Once a mass has been diagnosed, scans may be done to evaluate whether or not cancer has spread, the size of the tumor, and the specific location of the mass.

    Treatment for Cancer in Dogs

    Once it’s confirmed that a neoplasm is carcinogenic, doctors will create a treatment plan. For Chopper, this included surgery to remove the mass. Depending on the type of cancer, treatment may include:

    • Surgery
    • Chemotherapy
    • Radiation
    • Cryotherapy 
    • Hyperthermia 
    • Immunotherapy

    In our case, we needed to see a specialist to ensure that Chopper’s treatment was working and to address our concerns with the continued infections, blockage, and changes in growth after the surgery.

    Prognosis

    One of the scariest parts of a cancer diagnosis in dogs is the unknown. How effective will the treatment plan be? Will my dog have lasting side effects from the treatment? Will the cancer return? These questions were certainly running through our heads when Chopper was diagnosed. 

    Not only was Chopper’s journey a stressful process of surgery, treatment, and pain management; it was also made worse by the lack of information available on prognoses for canine cancer. Research on canine cancer is relatively new, making it hard to know how an individual dog will respond to treatment.

    Though there has been a major increase in cancer awareness in dogs over the years, the research has only started picking up over the last few decades. In fact, the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, one of the leading organizations for canine cancer, began receiving funds for cancer research in just 1995. 

    Prevention, Education, and Advocacy 

    Chopper’s story came as a huge shock to us. Had we not removed that seemingly benign bump, we could have missed the diagnosis until it was too late. 

    Since every cancer journey is unique to the individual, and our furry friends can’t communicate how they’re feeling or what’s wrong, it’s our job to be their biggest advocates. This is why we at Chopper and Otis are more determined than ever to bring awareness to canine cancer.

    For this quarter, we’re dedicating our donations to the National Canine Cancer Foundation (NCCF). NCCF is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to eliminate cancer in dogs through education, outreach, and research. 

    When you purchase one of our eco-friendly, nontoxic dog toys, you have the option to donate to NCCF before you enter a payment method. For every donation made, we will match the amount.

    While Chopper was fortunate to have received a quick diagnosis and prompt treatment plan, not all dogs are so lucky. We hope that in supporting a dog charity dedicated to spreading awareness of canine cancer, fewer dogs will suffer from this debilitating disease.

    Until next time--