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5 Facts about Pet Cancer

Our pets are family, which is why our ultimate goal is to keep them safe and healthy. Unfortunately, though, sometimes they get sick. During Pet Cancer Awareness Month, it’s important to become familiar with some of the facts about cancer so you can be prepared to get an early diagnosis or help combat it should it occur.

Fact No. 1: Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in pets older than 10.

What you should know: Our pets have an uncanny knack for making us happy, but since they can’t talk, it’s our responsibility to be aware of signs that could mean they are in distress, and to keep up with yearly checkups and necessary preventive care to stay on top of their health. While it’s true that cancer is one of the leading causes of death in dogs and cats, it’s most common when they are 10 or older. Additionally, although cancer is more common in dogs—roughly one in three dogs die of cancer, which is the same rate as people, according to—cats tend to hide their illness, which makes it more difficult to detect. Certain types of cancers are also more common in cats, such as lymphoma.

Fact No. 2: Most pets can get the same types of cancers as humans.

What you should know: While different types of pets get different types of cancers more frequently, most are susceptible to the same cancers as humans. Common diagnoses include cancers of the bladder, brain, lymph, lung, mammaries, skin, and bone. Cancer warning signs are often the same in our pets as they are in humans. Be on the lookout for irregular lumps or bumps, wounds that don’t heal, and swelling or abnormal bleeding. If you notice anything amiss, take your pet to their veterinarian right away.

Fact No. 3: For pets, some preventive steps can often help avoid cancer scares.

What you should know: Check with your veterinarian for specifics on how to take preventive measures against pet cancer. For example, the risk of reproductive cancers in female rabbits is virtually eliminated once they’re spayed, according to the House Rabbit Society. Obesity in dogs and cats can be a risk factor for many forms of cancer, so keeping your pet on a healthy diet with proper exercise is integral.

Fact No. 4: Although cancer is a devastating diagnosis, there are options for your pet.

What you should know: It’s never good news to hear that your pet has cancer, but there is much that is positive these days with cancer research. Advances in veterinary technology and discovery of more effective ways to treat cancer in pets means that when cancer is caught early, many pets can have great quality of life, including additional months to years of life. For example, dogs and cats diagnosed with cancer have access to some of the most common types of treatments and medications—like radiation and chemotherapy — as humans.

Fact No. 5: Awareness and preparation can help curb the problem.

What you should know: While there are many factors, some still poorly understood, on what causes cancer in pets, awareness and regular checkups are two of the best ways to catch any issues early. For example, one-quarter of all dogs will get a tumor in their lifetime, so check them regularly for lumps—and don’t skip annual checkups with their veterinarian. If your pet is diagnosed with cancer, pet insurance can help with the cost of those treatments.

pet cancer awareness facts infographic

Knowing the facts is the first step toward fighting cancer in pets. No one wants to hear that their beloved pet has a cancer diagnosis, but it’s important to have hope. When cancer is caught early, pets have a higher chance of beating it and living a longer and healthier life.

If you’d like to help pets with cancer find a cure or learn more about organizations that support pet cancer treatments, visit the Petco Foundation’s Pet Cancer Resource Guide.