CAN WE STOP PETS GETTING CANCER?
Just as in humans, there are many causes of cancer, and many aspects of life that can be modified to change the risk of certain types of cancers.
- Spaying: this is probably the most effective cancer risk reduction available to female pets. Mammary (breast) tumours are very common in entire bitches and fairly common in entire queens. In bitches about half of them are malignant or will probably become so if left untreated; in queens, more than 90% of mammary tumours are highly malignant and are very likely to have spread before surgery is undertaken. Spaying queens and bitches reduces the frequency of mammary tumours; spaying before puberty (first heat) has the greatest effect in this way.
Does (female rabbits) are prone to cancer of the womb and spaying is highly effective in prevention.
- Castration: testicular tumours are not rare, but the malignancy rate in dogs is relatively low. Prostate cancer is slightly more common in castrated dogs than in entire ones. Castration is not so effective in cancer prevention as spaying.
- Vaccination of cats: Feline Leukaemia virus is a potent cause of cancers in cats. The vaccines available are very effective and routine vaccination is highly recommended in preventing tumours caused by this virus.
- Sunblock: There is a particular problem of skin cancer in cats with white ear tips and/or nose. This has always been an increased cancer risk, but the recent and developing damage to the ozone layer is increasingthe risk significantly. Cats and dogs do not tan and so do not develop any protection from U/V light damage to skin cells where they are not coloured. The picture shows an advanced Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the ear of a cat. Fortunately it had not yet spread and removal of the ear flap cured the cat, but it is not wise to leave these tumours to this stage. Any dry, crusty skin on a white part of an ear or nose that lasts more than a month should be checked.
- Small rodents: Cancer is very common in small rodents. There has been suspicion that wood-shavings or sawdust bedding may contain carcinogenic wood-preservatives and that this may be a factor. Rapid growth of tumours is common and many are malignant. Surgery is possible for most if they are found early enough, but a pea-sized tumour on a mouse is huge in relation to the mouse, and owners often fail to notice tumours until they are at least that size. early is best!