Toronto Veterinarians - Pet Wellness Network

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Contact Willowdale Animal Hospital

Open 24 Hours, Year Round

256 Sheppard Ave. West
Toronto, ON M2N 1N3
(416) 222-5409

As we take better and better care of our pets, they are living longer and so we’re seeing more animals live to an age where they can develop cancer.  In fact, it is now the leading cause of death in dogs over the age of ten.

Many  cancers are curable if caught early, and the latest treatments for dogs with cancer have helped them live longer and more comfortable lives.

My own dog, AJ, was diagnosed  with lymphoma. He was treated  by a veterinary oncologist and lived 15 months beyond  his otherwise expected lifespan.  He responded very well to the treatment, had almost no side-effects and as I told people, “he was the only one that didn’t know he had lymphoma.” More recently, I diagnosed my dog Stanley with a splenic tumour. His spleen was removed and  we are awaiting the histopathology results. Though 2/3 of dogs with splenic tumours have malignant tumours, 1/3 are benign and will be cured if the spleen is removed. Dogs with malignant splenic  tumours are living longer than before. Previously, dogs with malignant tumours would live approximately 6 months if they had surgery and chemotherapy. With the advent of a new drug, some of these dogs are living beyond a year.

Owners sometimes don’t like to hear the term chemotherapy  because they associate the term with human side-effects.  In veterinary medicine , our goal is to extend a pets  lifespan and to bring better quality to their existence, we are not aiming for a cure. In fact, less than 5% of dogs will experience side effects to chemotherapy. A veterinary oncologist is the best person to deliver this care.

Cancer in cats is less common, at just half the rate of dogs, but when cats do contract cancer, it tends to be more aggressive forms of the disease.  However, we are discovering more about cancer everyday and diagnosis and treatment options are extending cats’ lives . Once there was no option for squamous cell carcinoma (an aggressive tumour on the jaw or under the tongue of cat’s mouths), there is now a new drug that in some cases will shrink the size of the tumour.

With early diagnosis and treatment, our pets can enjoy a better quality of life for a longer time than ever before. As mentioned, there has been tremendous progress in treating cancer in pets over the past 20 years.  Surgery is the most common treatment, used to remove tumours, but there is also the option of using radiation therapy (Guelph only) or chemotherapy, especially in larger cities like Toronto. There is a veterinary oncologist available in Toronto who specializes in cancer treatments and we can refer you.

The warning signs are similar as they are  in people: a lump or bump or swelling, a wound that doesn’t heal, abnormal bleeding, lameness, or enlarged lymph nodes. That’s why it is so important to get regular check-ups for your pet, once a year until they are about 7, and then twice a year as they enter what is then their senior years.

If you notice any of these symptoms between your pet’s regular checkups, please let us know right away.

And keep your fingers crossed for Stanley  🙂




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