Happy New Year 2015! First, let’s get a quick check list out of the way:

1 .Check to see if any vaccines are due. Call your veterinarian if you don’t have the information. 

2. Check your pet’s microchip registration and make sure the information is current. 

3. Take a photo of your pet in case they get loose and you need to make a flyer. 

If you are like my partner Cookie, this shouldn’t be an issue. In fact, she has so many photos of our dog her phone’s memory is full. Facebook is a mixed blessing, isn’t it?

I recently had a client bring their elderly cat in because it wasn’t acting quite right. The pet’s presenting complaint was not eating and lethargy for many days. We discussed kidney disease, diabetes, cancer and a few other common diseases as possible reasons for her pet’s problem. Our blood tests and radiographs were within the normal limits so we were able to eliminate kidney disease and diabetes from our list, but not cancer. 

This came as a surprise to my client since she thought the blood panel would screen for cancer. Unfortunately, detection of cancer is very difficult and unlike humans, there are very few markers that veterinarians can check to screen for cancer. Some of the problem lies with the tremendous diversity in our animal patients. Another problem is in the funding available for research.

Some researchers are looking at C reactive protein and thymidine kinase levels in pets as

potential markers for cancer. But because these products can

elevate in almost any type of inflammation, they can cross react and give a false positive in about 50% of the time. A tissue biopsy and histopathology remain the definitive diagnostic tool.

Still, veterinarians remain optimistic that better cancer screening may be available in the near future.  

Unless a lump or tumor is found to biopsy, cancer remains a diagnosis of exclusion. This means the doctor will eliminate other diseases from the patient’s problem list until cancer is the only disease left on the list.

The good news is cancer treatment has made incredible leaps in the last several years for cancers previously thought untreatable. However, early detection remains essential for the best outcome. State-of-the-art diagnostics such as ultrasound, scintigraphy, CT and MRI have continued to become more common and cost effective for our animal patients. 

As a pet owner, you have the chance to catch diseases in your pet earlier than anyone else. Here are some common symptoms associated with cancer in pets:

• Lumps or swelling that persist or continue to grow.

• Loss of appetite or difficulty eating.

• Unexplained weight loss.

• Any bleeding from a body opening.

• Abnormal urination or change in urine habits. 

• Persistent lameness.

• Any unusual odor. 

• Sores that do not seem to heal.

• Lethargy or shortness of breath. 

If your pet shows any of these symptoms, make an appointment right away. Besides cancer, these symptoms are consistent with other serious conditions. 

May 2015 bring health and happiness to you and your pets.

Dr. Greg Perrault owns and operates Cats & Dogs Animal Hospital in Long Beach.

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