November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month


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Pets often have much in common with their humans, and unfortunately, for some pets, this includes the risk of developing cancer.  During the month of November, particular efforts are made to raise awareness of the prevalence of cancer among pets.

According to, National Pet Cancer Awareness Month started in 2005, and was created by Nationwide and the Animal Cancer Foundation with a goal in mind to raise money and increase awareness to fight the leading killer of pets.  

Cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death for domestic dogs and cats in the US (especially older ones).  Warning signs can be very similar to those of their human counterparts:  

  • weight loss
  • diarrhea/vomiting
  • lethargy
  • abnormal bleeding
  • growths or swelling

All would be reasons to consult with a vet. The familiar treatments are being adapted for animals, too:  surgery, chemo, and even stereotactic radiosurgery. A lemur, at the Pittsburgh Zoo recently underwent a mastectomy for breast cancer.   Cures are sought through research in comparative oncology, which studies cancers of humans and companion animals. 

Should your pet be something other than a dog or a cat, are they also at risk?  That depends. Since my son recently “adopted” some chinchillas, I wanted to educate myself on HIS pet of choice, and was surprised to find that small rodents (like chinchillas) have a very low incidence of cancer.  

Researchers speculate that small rodents’ bodies are able to detect cancerous growths and actually slow down cell division.  They hope that inducing the human body to do the same might be a possibility someday. They also speculate that body mass may increase the risk of cancer, since “simply having more cells increases the likelihood that one will become cancerous.”  That would seem to be consistent with the observation that, smaller dogs tend to have a lower incidence of cancer than larger ones. On the other hand, on average, only 1 in 20 elephants develop the disease compared to 1 in 5 people. 

For more information about cancer and pets, visit one of the following resources provided here.  Be sure to have your pets examined if they are experiencing any of the symptoms noted in this article.  

Photo by Steve Adcock on Pixabay