November is Canine Cancer Awareness Month

AMES, Iowa – November is Canine Cancer Awareness Month, and an oncologist at the Iowa State University Hixson-Lied Small Animal Hospital is encouraging dog owners to look for early warning signs to keep their pets in good health.
 
Dr. Leslie Fox, an associate professor of veterinary clinical sciences who practices oncology, said 45 percent of dogs who live longer than 10 years die of cancer.  Fox urged dog owners to pay close attention for some of the most common early warning signs that a dog may have cancer.
 
Those warning signs include unexplainable lumps and bumps on the dog’s body, changes in weight and appetite and interruptions to a dog’s urinary and bowel habits, Fox said. Additionally, lethargy or a visual expression of pain while the dog is moving or walking should also be checked out by a veterinarian, she said.
 
She also emphasized regular exercise and a healthy diet as an important means of keeping pooches healthy and cancer-free.
 
“Just as in humans, obesity is linked to increased cancer risk in dogs,” she said. “It’s a big concern in dogs that can lead to all kinds of serious health problems, so take good care of your dogs and keep them lean and fit.”
 
Fox said purebred dogs may be more at risk for cancer because of genetic factors. She said purebreds come from limited gene pools, meaning genes that may be linked to cancer are more prominent.
 
“We know that cancer is a genetic disease,” she said.   “It makes sense that there might be more health issues including cancer, associated with a gene pool selected for specific traits, like short nose, pointy ears, fluffy white coat.”
 
For example, she said golden retrievers experience increased instances of lymphoma while pugs experience increased instances of mast cell tumors. Dog owners should know about any factors that may increase their dog’s risk for cancer and regularly look for warning signs, Fox said.
 
Early detection is critical and may save a dog’s life, she said. 

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