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Groomers Are The 1st Line of Defense Against Cancer

Mar 11, 2013

Listen to Dr. Post on Animal Radio® for November 3, 2012

Dr. Gerald Post is the owner of the Veterinary Cancer Center (The VCC), in Norwalk, CT, which is a specialized veterinary practice dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in animals.

Some estimates suggest that greater than 50% of dogs over 10 years old will die of cancer.  Dogs get cancer a little bit more frequently than humans, while cats get cancer less frequently than humans.  There are about 6 million new cases of dogs and cats diagnosed with cancer every year.  The earlier you detect cancer, the better your chance of effective treatment.

This is where your groomer comes in.  Dr. Post can't tell us how many times cancer has been detected first by the groomer.  The groomer then advises their client, who will brings their animal to their veterinarian.

Dr. Post feels that groomers are a great resource for health maintenance and detecting cancer at a very early stage.

Animal Radio's own Joey Villani, who has been grooming dogs for many years, explains why groomers can help detect cancer.  He states that they look at our dogs more closely than we do, and are looking at areas where we might not always see.  These include closely looking at the private areas and feeling under their arms and legs.  They do this because they will be working in those areas and want to make sure they are free and clear of any lumps or bumps.  What they sometimes find are lumps and bumps and even moles that don't look right.  If they do find something odd, they will tell the guardian to take the dog to their veterinarian and have it looked at.  Joey also mentions that he can't remember how many times a guardian has come back to him with tears in their eyes and told him, "Thank you very much.  This was the beginning of cancer.  You saved my dog!"

While groomers find these lumps and bumps, they still need to be examined by a veterinarian.  This is a whole team approach to detecting cancer in our pets.

Cancer can be caused by a variety of things, such as diet, environmental factors and genetic factors.

Unfortunately different breeds of dogs are more prone to certain types of cancers.  For example, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Flat-Coated Retrievers and Boxers, have a 60% of getting cancer at some point in their lives.

Below are 10 warning signs of cancer in both dogs and cats. Please understand that these are just potential warning signs and should not panic you, but prompt a visit to your veterinarian.Chart showing dog's lymph nodes

1. Swollen lymph nodes: These "glands" are located all throughout the body but are most easily detected behind the jaw or behind the knee. When these lymph nodes are enlarged they can suggest a common form of cancer called lymphoma. A biopsy or cytology of these enlarged lymph nodes can aid in the diagnosis.

2. An enlarging or changing lump: Any lump on a pet that is rapidly growing or changing in texture or shape should have a biopsy. Lumps belong in biopsy jars, not on pets.

3. Abdominal distension: When the "stomach" or belly becomes rapidly enlarged, this may suggest a mass or tumor in the abdomen or it may indicate some bleeding that is occurring in this area. A radiograph or an ultrasound of the abdomen can be very useful.

4. Chronic weight loss: When a pet is losing weight and you have not put your pet on a diet, you should have your pet checked. This sign is not diagnostic for cancer, but can indicate that something is wrong. Many cancer patients have weight loss.

5. Chronic vomiting or diarrhea: Unexplained vomiting or diarrhea should prompt further investigation. Often tumors of the gastrointestinal tract can cause chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea. Radiographs, ultrasound examinations and endoscopy are useful diagnostic tools when this occurs.

6.Unexplained bleeding: Bleeding from the mouth, nose, penis, vagina or gums that is not due to trauma should be examined. Although bleeding disorders do occur in pets, they usually are discovered while pets are young. If unexplained bleeding starts when a pet is old, a thorough search should be undertaken.

7. Cough: A dry, non-productive cough in an older pet should prompt chest radiographs to be taken. This type of cough is the most common sign of lung cancer. Please remember there are many causes of coughs in dogs and cats.

8. Lameness: Unexplained lameness especially in large or giant breed dogs is a very common sign of bone cancer. Radiographs of the affected area are useful for detecting cancer of the bone.

9. Straining to urinate: Straining to urinate and blood in the urine usually indicate a common urinary tract infection; if the straining and bleeding are not rapidly controlled with antibiotics or are recurrent, cancer of the bladder may be the underlying cause. Cystoscopy or other techniques that allow a veterinarian to take a biopsy of the bladder are useful and sometimes necessary to establish a definitive diagnosis in these cases.

10. Oral odor: Oral tumors do occur in pets and can cause a pet to change its food preference (i.e. from hard to soft foods) or cause a pet to change the manner in which it chews its food. Many times a foul odor can be detected in pets with oral tumors. A thorough oral examination with radiographs or CT scan, necessitating sedation, is often necessary to determine the cause of the problem.

Now with the powerful tool of Genome X, we will soon be able to look at the genetics of a dog and tell if a particular dog has a high or low risk factor for certain types of cancer.