November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month
Did you know that cancer is the leading cause of death in adult dogs? As the average age of our pet population increases due to advances in preventative veterinary medicine, so does the rate of cancer. Regular at home cancer checks are recommended to assist with early detection. Start at the tip of the nose and work your way back to the tip of the tail, noting any changes or irregularities in each area.
Check the symmetry between both eyes, including shape, color, movement, and pupil size. Be sure to observe all parts of the eyes, including the whites and eyelids. Look for abnormal eye discharge. Some clear discharge is normal – pay attention to what is normal for your dog, and take note when it increases or decreases or changes in color.
Assess for any abnormal swellings, debris, or odors. Note any excessive scratching or rubbing behavior.
Nose and Muzzle
Look for lesions, swellings, debris, or excessive drainage. Take note whether the nose is wet or dry – some variation throughout the day is normal. Check the symmetry of the nose and note any differences from one side to another.
Taking it slowly, examine the lip margins and check inside the mouth for swellings and bad breath. The gums should be pink, and the teeth should be firmly in place with no exposed roots or tartar. Pay attention to the normal ridges along the gum line and roof of the mouth, and make sure there is no difference from one side to the other. If allowable, look at the surface of the tongue as well as underneath it. Please note that not all dogs are comfortable with checking inside their mouth.
Jawline and Neck
Make sure the length of the jawline is symmetrical with a consistent texture. Note any areas that are sensitive to the touch. Check the neck for firm lumps or swellings.
Brush back the fur and look at the skin and coat. Check for flaking, bruising, scabs, rashes and lumps. Take note of the normal color of the skin and note any inconsistencies or darker spots. Also note any areas of fur loss as well as scratching or rubbing behavior.
Evaluate muscle tone and symmetry. Note any changes in weight, especially rapid increases or decreases.
Check for heat, lumps, and generalized swelling. If allowable, gently move each of the legs in their normal direction and pattern, noting any discomfort or stiffness.
Check the pads and in between each of the toes – there should be no debris, and they should be symmetrical to the other side. Examine the nails and nail beds for any cracking, masses, or discoloration, taking note of what is normal for your dog.
Gently feel along the belly to detect any lumps or areas of discomfort. Examine your dog regularly to determine what is normal so that you can determine if swelling or bloating is present in the future.
Gently lift the tail and examine the anus and surrounding area. Look for cleanliness, uniformity, color changes, and swellings. Take note of the stools, noting any changes in consistency, size, and color.
If you detect any points of concern, please schedule an appointment with your primary care veterinarian (PCP). If there is concern for cancer, your PCP may refer you to Friendship Oncology Specialists (FOS). FOS is here to help and provides state-of-the-art treatment options for pets with cancer. To schedule a consultation, please contact us at (202)567-2080.
Headed by board-certified oncologist Dr. Courtney Mallett, Friendship Oncology Specialists offers a wide variety of treatment options for pets with cancer.
*All images courtesy of Friendship Hospital for Animals.
*Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.