This is one of the major justifications for having your pets insured from an early age. As in humans, cancer is not a geriatric disease, but a disease than can affect pets of all ages. It is not uncommon to see very aggressive cancers appearing in young cats and dogs. The older our pets get, then of course the greater the chance that a “nasty” may come along.
Advances in veterinary medicine and surgery these days are progressing very rapidly. We are now not only diagnosing, but also successfully removing and treating even brain cancers. Of course the main factor limiting extensive diagnosis and treatment are the costs involved, but what we can do these days is quite remarkable compared to five years ago.
The cornerstone of cancer diagnosis in our pets is biopsy. However MRI and CATSCAN are now readily available, and by “staging” cancers we can more effectively determine the extent to which a cancer has spread.
Surgery remains the mainstay of treatment for most cancers. Aggressive cancers often warrant aggressive surgery. As a general principle, the wider margin we can remove from an aggressive cancer, the better chance we have of it not returning. If a particularly wide surgery is indicated then we may not be able to close the wound with the skin remaining. In these cases we will need to consider skin flaps, whereby we rotate large areas of skin from adjacent areas to close the deficits. The feasibility – and potential post-surgical complications – of a skin flap are determined by the site and extent of the surgery.
Other cancer treatments that are rapidly improving and readily available to our pets these days include chemotherapy and radiation.
Together all these treatments are giving us an ever-increasing chance of either curing or significantly lengthening the lives of our pets when faced with this common disease.