Tag Archives: cancer

Dogs and Cats Can Get Breast Cancer, Too

Dogs and Cats Can Get Breast Cancer, Too
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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Many pet owners may not be aware that dogs and cats can also get breast cancer, referred to as mammary cancer.  Although it is rarer in cats, 25 percent of all unspayed female dogs will develop mammary tumors, according to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS).

Fortunately, mammary cancer is easy to prevent – and it’s another reason why spaying or neutering your pet is so important.  Mammary cancer rarely occurs in male dogs or in female dogs and cats that have been spayed.  Mammary tumors, on the other hand, are the most common type of tumors found in female dogs that were never spayed or were spayed after the age of two.

“Dogs spayed before their first heat cycle have only a .5 percent risk, or virtually no risk, of developing mammary cancer,” writes Dr. Ken Tudor on petsMD.com.  “The risk increases to 8 percent when spayed after the second heat.  By 2.5 years of age, spaying offers no decreased risk benefit.  This argues for early spaying, since mammary tumors are very common.”

Why is mammary cancer more common in dogs that have not been spayed?  Every time female dogs go into heat, their bodies endure a 60-day hormonal pregnancy, regardless of whether or not they actually breed.  (This can cause a condition known as false pregnancy, where a dog believes she is going to have puppies, and starts lactating and nesting.)

The dog breeds most at risk for mammary cancer, according to the ACVS, are poodles, dachshunds and spaniels.  For cats, it’s Siamese or other Oriental breeds, and domestic short hairs.  Young dogs that are obese also have a higher risk.

Mammary tumors can be small and benign, or large growths that can spread to the lungs.  About half of the ones found in dogs are cancerous, which is comparable to the ratio of malignant breast tumors found in women.  Mammary cancer in dogs is rarely fatal.  But for cats, about 85 percent of tumors are malignant, and they tend to be more aggressive and spread more quickly through the cat’s body.

As with breast cancer, mammary cancer can often be successfully treated if it’s detected early.  Just like performing a monthly breast exam, pet owners can regularly check their dogs and cats for any suspicious new lumps or growths by palpating the mammary glands.

“When tumors first appear, they will feel like small pieces of pea gravel just under the skin,” writes Race Foster, DVM, on peteducation.com.  “They are very hard and are difficult to move around under the skin.  They can grow rapidly in a short period of time, doubling their size every month or so.”

If you see or feel anything out of the ordinary, you should immediately take your pet to a veterinarian.

As with other types of canine and feline cancers, veterinarians usually diagnose mammary cancer on the basis of the pet’s medical history and a physical exam.  According to the ACVS, your vet may want to run additional tests, such as X-rays, blood tests and ultrasounds to confirm the diagnosis.  A biopsy of the mammary tissue is usually necessary to help determine if the tumor is malignant.

Unless the dog or cat is very old, surgical removal of the tumor is usually recommended.  If surgery on malignant tumors is performed early enough, the cancer can be completely eradicated in half of the cases.

In some cases, the mammary glands must be removed — but this is nothing like a radical mastectomy in humans.  The surgery is easier and the recovery time is faster.  “In humans, this type of surgery would affect the underlying muscle tissue, which complicates the recovery,” Dr. Foster explains.  “In the dog, however, all of the breast tissue and the related lymphatics are outside of the muscle layer, so we only need to cut through the skin and the mammary tissue.”

For cats, the local lymph node may also be removed to see if the cancer is spreading.

Chemotherapy is not usually successful in treating mammary cancer, so it is not widely used.  “For most mammary tumors in cats and dogs, hormonal therapy, immunotherapy and radiation therapy have either not been investigated or aren’t beneficial,” adds the ACVS.

While dogs may live for several years after surgery, the prognosis for cats is not as positive, according to the ACVS.  Depending on the size and spread of the mammary tumor, cats may live from just a few months to a few years after surgery.

Not much can be done to prevent many cancers in pets, but mammary cancer is the exception.  In fact, Dr. Foster notes that if all female dogs and cats were spayed before their first heat cycle, mammary cancer “could be almost completely eliminated.”

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Five Things You Might Hear Your Vet Say That Aren’t True

vet dog vaccine myths


Here is a Top Five List of some of the just plain bad vaccine advice commonly dispensed by vets….  some real snippets of wisdom, pulled from various veterinary websites by Dogs Naturally.

1. Vaccination and Immunization are the Same Thing

Prevention is better than cure.  Vaccination is the way we cause animals to become resistant (immune) to infections.  A vaccine consists of a modified or killed virus or bacterium.  It is prepared in such a way that the body’s defences recognise it as a threat and react to it as if it were a real infection.  The body will produce antibodies which are proteins which recognise and attach to chemicals on the surface of the organism, killing it. These antibodies are then available to kill any of the real infection organisms the animal might pick up during its life. They are lost gradually and the body needs occasional reminders (booster vaccinations) to keep the antibody level high enough to prevent real infections.  Vaccination reactions are very rare.   A booster is recommended each year.

The body doesn’t react to a vaccine the same way it would to the real disease.  When exposed to real virus, the body forms immunity by filing that information away in memory cells.  The memory cells, called cellular immunity, are reponsible for mounting a quick attack the next time they are faced with the same disease and the body, armed with the knowledge the memory cells have stored away, quickly neutralizes the disease by triggering circulating antibodies.  This is why humans only get chicken pox once and dogs can only get parvovirus once.  After the first episode, they’re protected for life.

Vaccines try to emulate this, but they don’t do a complete job.  Vaccines stimulate circulating antibodies, called humeral immunity, and they bypass the memory cells.  This creates an artificial immunity called humoral bias and this essentially turns the immune system inside out.  To learn more about this effect, read our article on Vaccines And The Immune System.

But the real problem with this statement is their desire for antibody levels to be high.  High antibody levels mean high levels of circulating antibodies – or humeral bias.  The higher the titer, the more chronically inflamed the body is. This humeral bias and resulting chronic inflammation result in many of the autoimmune diseases we commonly see in dogs today: allergies, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, bowel disease and many, many more.  Vaccine reactions may be rare, but the risk and severity of chronic disease that vaccines cause increase with each and every vaccine given.

2. Vaccinating Puppies At 6 Weeks Of Age

Your puppy vaccination course should be started at 6 weeks of age.  A primary vaccination is first given and a booster 2-4 weeks later.  This course must be completed before your puppy is fully protected.  Unfortunately the protection provided by vaccinating is not life-long and hence an annual booster is recommended.  At ________ veterinary clinic we will send you out an annual reminder to ensure your pet is kept up to date and protected.

Vaccinating a puppy at 6 weeks?  According to veterinary vaccine researcher Dr Jean Dodds, only 30% of puppies will be protected from a vaccine given at 6 weeks of age: yet 100% of them will be exposed to disease when taken to the vet clinic for that shot. Moreover, vaccines create immune suppression for 10 to 14 days.  So, choosing to vaccinate a puppy at 6 weeks means exposing him to the most disease ridden location he could possibly be in – the vet clinic – while creating immune suppression at the same time. Your puppy is much more likely to get the disease he is being vaccinating for, and all in exchange for a 30% chance the vaccine will work. That’s a pretty high gamble with a puppy’s life.

The reason the vaccine is unlikely to work at that young age is because the puppy is protected against disease with maternal antibodies – immunity passed down from his mother.  This protection wanes over time, but is still pretty strong at 6 weeks.  That’s why in most cases the vaccine doesn’t work at this age:  the maternal antibodies are strong enough to block the vaccine.

Here is problem number two with vaccinating at that age:  the maternal antibodies will be less effective after the vaccine is given because vaccines cause immune suppression.

We also object to this statement: “This course must be completed before your puppy is fully protected.”  There are two problems with this statement actually.  One, you can’t be partially protected: immunity is like being a virgin, you either are or you aren’t.  Either the immune system has filed that information away or it hasn’t:  there is no grey area, you are either immune or you are not. As for the other problem, a course of vaccines is not necessary:  it only takes ONE vaccine to protect a puppy for life – ONE AND DONE.  For more information on this, you might want to read Taking The Risk Out Of Puppy Shots.

3. Lifelong Immunity

Primary pet vaccinations do not cover your animal for the rest of their life, so annual booster vaccinations are required for continued protection.

Wow, bad grammar aside, there’s one very big problem with this statement – a monumental problem of biblical proportions!  Not only do core vaccines last for the life of the animal, vets have known about this for about forty years!  We won’t even go into why annual vaccination is a very, very bad choice – because vaccinating every three years or every five years is also a bad choice based on unsound science.   Nuff said.  Think we’re making this up?  You might want to read Lifelong Immunity:  Why Vets Are Pushing Back for more information.

4. Revaccination is Backed by Research

At ______ Veterinary Hospital, we are aware of some of the controversy currently surrounding immunization protocols. However, until industry leaders and experts, such as the vaccine manufacturers and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), arrive at some definitive conclusions, we believe it to be in the best interest of your pet and the general public to continue to adhere to our established immunization protocols.  We recommend that your pet should receive annual boosters. 

Controversy?  Industry leaders and experts?  Here is the crux of the problem:  these vets are waiting for the vaccine manufacturers, AAHA and the AVMA to decide how often to vaccinate.  Don’t you think that all of these entities have a financial interest in how often you vaccinate your dog?  Are they capable of making an unbiased recommendation?  Apparently they aren’t.

The report of the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccine Taskforce in JAAHA (39 March/April 2003) includes the following information for vets:

Misunderstanding, misinformation and the conservative nature of our profession have largely slowed adoption of protocols advocating decreased frequency of vaccination; Immunological memory provides durations of immunity for core infectious diseases that far exceed the traditional recommendations for annual vaccination.

This is supported by a growing body of veterinary information  as well-developed epidemiological vigilance in human medicine that indicates immunity induced by vaccination is extremely long lasting and, in most cases, lifelong.

If you would like to read more about how vets arbitrarily chose the period of three years for revaccination, even though they knew back in 2003 that vaccines lasted likely for the life of the dog, read Lifelong Immunity And The AAHA Revaccination Guidelines.

5. Your Vet is a Vaccine Expert

Annual boosters are painless for your pet, and help to fight off contagious illnesses throughout the year.  The staff at ______ Veterinary Clinic are expertly trained in the welfare of your pet.

Any vet who advocates annual vaccinations – or even uses the term booster – is clearly not expertly trained in immunization or the welfare of your pet. In fact, most vets are woefully inept when it comes to understanding immunity.

They are very good at giving vaccines – yet most vets are not taught very much about immunity at all.

Perhaps that’s because immunity is taught by the vaccine manufacturers – it’s no wonder that vets are well armed with needles yet lack the knowledge or motivation to question just what damage those needles are doing. If you would like to learn more about how little vets feel they were taught about vaccination, and the disease they saw vaccines create in their patients, read our ground-breaking featured article, Vets On Vaccines.

In the end, it doesn’t matter whether vets continue to dispense this bad advice out of ignorance or for financial gain (most veterinary practices earn 14% of their income from vaccines). Either way, the bad advice is out there and dog owners – and dogs – will fall victim to that bad advice every day.

If you find your vet dispensing bad vaccine advice, don’t ignore it.  Perhaps reading and sharing What Every Vet (And Pet Owner) Should Know About Vaccines will help you both to begin understanding that immunity involves more than just shots and boosters.


Source:  Dogs Naturally

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Pet Companions Show the Healing Power of Pets


Have you  noticed that you feel better when you spend time with pets?

Every day, pets are improving the lives of people in more ways than you might imagine. Dr. Marty Becker — known to TV audiences as “America’s Veterinarian” — explains how life is better with pets (video).
He speaks about the ways in which companion dogs and cats can have a positive impact on our health — both physically and emotionally. Bonding with a pet may be more beneficial than you think.
Here are just some of the amazing ways pets make our lives better…

Pets Encourage Physical Activity

It’s a given that having a pet can take you out of a sedentary lifestyle and encourage you to get out of the house.  Dogs need to go outside for walks.  Cats need exercise and playtime.

Friends can provide support when starting up an exercise routine, but nothing compares to the encouragement of a pet.  “If you ever try to weasel out of exercising with your dog, there is going to be heck to pay,” said Becker.

Pets Encourage Social Interaction

Pets are social magnets.  According to Becker, pets are the “cure for the common cold shoulder.”

Imagine taking a walk on crowded city streets.  No one talks to you or even seems to notice your presence.  Now imagine taking an adorable puppy down those same streets.  You’ll get more people making comments, asking you questions, or stopping to talk to you than you ever would if you were walking alone.

Pets Reduce Stress

According to Becker, just by touching our pets we feel a surge of prolactin and oxytocin, hormones that can help us feel better.  These same hormones can lower blood pressure and reduce stress.  Having a pet can elevate serotonin and dopamine — hormones that lift depression — as well.

Our animals often know when we need them, too.  Pets tend to draw near when you’re feeling blue to provide emotional support.  And pets get the same benefits from petting.  Becker calls this the “love loop.”

Pets Improve Health

Additionally, Becker notes that if you have a dog, you’re five times more likely to be alive a year after a heart attack.  If you have a cat, you’re 40 percent less likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke in the first place.  Pets lower cholesterol, they mitigate migraines, and they act as health monitors for Parkinson’s disease and diabetic seizures.  Research has even begun on some dogs who have the amazing ability to detect cancer.

Becker also notes that children who have a pet growing up are less likely to develop allergies, asthma, and eczema.

Simply put, our companion dogs and cats help us live healthier, happier lives.  They provide unconditional love and ask for relatively little in return.
How amazing is that?

“From our hearts to our heads, from cradle to grave, pets are helping us live happier, healthier, and fuller lives,” said Becker.

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Great News on the Canine Cancer Front

In honor of November’s National Pet Cancer Awareness Month I would like to share some “hot off the press” wonderfully optimistic news with you. Dr. Nicola Mason from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has been researching a new way to treat osteosarcoma, an aggressive and fatal form of bone cancer that has an affinity for growing within the leg bones of large and giant- breed dogs.

Until now, treatment of osteosarcoma has consisted primarily of amputation (removal) of the affected leg with or without chemotherapy.  In spite of such aggressive treatment, inevitably tiny clusters of cancer cells eventually grow into metastatic tumors that ultimately become life-ending.  Approximately 60% of dogs die within one year of the diagnosis.

A new approach

Dr. Mason’s innovative approach to treating dogs with osteosarcoma involves “cancer immunotherapy” in which the patient’s own immune system is triggered to target and kill tumor cells.  In order to use a dog’s immune system to treat osteosarcoma Dr. Mason devised a vaccine consisting of bacteria that have been modified to express a protein called Her2/neu.  This protein is known as a “growth factor receptor” and is found on a variety of different cancer cells, including some canine osteosarcoma cells.  You may have heard of Her2/neu before because it is commonly associated with breast cancer cells in women.  The concept behind the vaccine is as follows:  The bacteria stimulates the dog’s “immune system soldiers” to seek out and destroy the bacteria along with cells that express Her2/neu (osteosarcoma cells).

Outcomes to date

Thus far, Dr. Mason has treated 12 dogs with osteosarcoma following amputation and chemotherapy.  The dogs received the vaccine once weekly for three weeks.  Side effects of the vaccine were minimal.  All that was observed was a mild, brief fever following vaccine administration.

The preliminary results have been immensely encouraging.  The first vaccinated dog, Sasha has a survival time of 570 days thus far.  Two other dogs vaccinated at the beginning of the study are alive and cancer free more than 500 days post diagnosis.  Other dogs who were vaccinated more recently are still doing well.  These are truly fantastic results.

What comes next?

Some dogs with osteosarcoma are not good candidates for amputation primarily because of neurological or musculoskeletal issues in their other limbs.  Treatment options for these dogs are aimed at reducing the pain associated with the tumor.  Dr. Mason plans to begin including some of these nonsurgical candidates in her osteosarcoma vaccine study.

Additionally, Dr. Mason is contemplating learning if what she has developed would be an effective means for prevention of osteosarcoma.  Certain breeds (Rottweilers, Irish Wolfhounds, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Doberman Pinschers, and Greyhounds, to name a few) are particularly predisposed to osteosarcoma.  It will be fascinating to learn if the osteosarcoma vaccine will effectively prevent this horrific disease in high-risk individuals.

The research results gathered thus far represent a monumental success in cancer treatment and provide significant hope for a disease previously associated with a grim prognosis.  Kudos to Dr. Mason for her stunning work!  If your dog has osteosarcoma and you are interested in participating in Dr. Mason’s studies, contact her at 215-898-3996 or by e-mail at nmason@vet.upenn.edu.

If you would like to respond publicly, please visit

Source:   http://speakingforspot.com/blog/2013/11/17/great-news-on-the-canine-cancer-front/


Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts fromSpeaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health.

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