The term “cancer” refers to disease resulting from abnormal cells dividing, invading normal tissue, bone, and blood, and spreading throughout the body. One in four dogs will develop cancer in their lifetime, and nearly half of all dogs over the age of 10 will be diagnosed with cancer.
Common Types of Cancer - not a definitive list
Hemangiosarcoma: a highly aggressive cancer arising from the lining of blood vessels and affecting the spleen, liver, right atrium of the heart, and skin. This cancer is often not detected until in advanced stages making it extremely difficult to treat. Compared with other breeds, Portuguese Water Dogs have a much higher incidence of contracting hemangiosarcoma.
Lymphoma:involves the lymph nodes and lymphatic system
Osteosarcoma: surfaces from bone cells
Mammary Tumors: more common in older, intact females
Mast Cell Tumors: develops from cells in the immune system which normally treat inflammation and allergic reactions in the body
Melanoma tumor of pigmented cells in the body and can be aggressive
Soft-tissue Sarcoma: stemsfrom the connective, muscle, or nervous tissue
Hepatocellular Carcinoma: liver canceroriginating from the liver cells
Squamous Cell Carcinoma: type of skin canceroften appearing in the mouth or nailbeds
Brain Tumors: common types aremeningiomas and gliomas
Malignant Histiocytosis: produces multiple tumors in the skin and vital organs
Prostate Cancer: aggressive tumor of unclear etiology affecting both neutered and unneutered males
Testicular: occurs more commonly in unneutered males with testes in abnormal location
Transitional Cell Carcinoma: a cancer of the epithelial cells lining the urinary tract
Warning Signs of Cancer
Monitoring for signs of cancer is the important first step towards finding a diagnosis and treatment options. Warning signs include: unusual lumps, bumps or swellings, sores that do not fully heal, difficulty eating and swallowing, loss of appetite and weight, offensive odor, bleeding or discharge from orifices, persistent lameness or stiffness, fatigue, and difficulties with breathing, urinating or stooling. Stay attuned to changes in your dog’s body, appetite, elimination, weight, movement, activity level, or mood. Mark your calendar every month to check your dog for lumps, bumps, and swellings. Ask your groomer to notify you of any unusual findings during grooming appointments.
If cancer is suspected in your dog, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. The work-up will include a comprehensive exam and possibly bloodwork and urinalysis. Your vet may refer your dog to a veterinary oncologist to further investigate with x-rays, scans, and biopsy. Treatment may involve a combination of therapies, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, cryosurgery, or immunotherapy.
Some types of cancers can be cured, while others can only be managed to decrease spread, promote comfort, and improve quality of life. Factors improving success of treatment depends on the (1) staging (where in the body, how large, and how extensive the spread) and (2) type of cancer. Once a dog is diagnosed with type and staging of the cancer, the veterinarian will discuss best treatment approaches, potential risks, and side effects associated with each option
Risk Factors for Developing Cancer
Age: cancer occurs more frequently in older dogs
Size of Dog: larger breeds have higher incidence of cancers
Breed/genetic factors: many cancers have a genetic origin
Gender: incidence of cancer is generally higher in females than males
Diet: there are no definitive studies to date proving certain diets or supplements cause or prevent cancer
Chronic inflammation: linked to an increased incidence of cancer
Obesity: obese dogs are more prone to developing mammary (breast) and mast cell cancers
Environmental factors: exposure to sun, pesticides, herbicides, and smoke have been linked to an increased risk of developing cancer
Treatment depends on your dog’s staging, type of cancer, and health condition. Options may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or a combination of therapies.
Steps Toward a Cure
With advances in research and early diagnosis, dogs today have a better chance of being successfully treated for cancer than ever before. Researchers continue to make strides in immunologic therapies and treatments which are helping dogs with cancer live longer and with improved quality of life. For instance, recent research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania documented that dogs with hemangiosarcoma who were treated with Turkey Tail mushroom extract experienced extended survival time and improved quality of life.
Role of the Breeder
Responsible breeders understand the health issues in the breed, carry out all recommended health testing, and support research to improve the breed. Breeders of Portuguese Water Dogs should receive health updates for the life of the dog and keep information in the PWDCA Health and Litter Database (HLD) current. Before puppies are released to homes, the breeder should educate puppy families on common health concerns in the breed, the importance of maintaining regular veterinary exams, and importance of keeping a dog fit and of a healthy weight.
Lower Risks at Home
To help lower risk of your dog developing canine cancer schedule routine vet exams and care for your dog, keep your dog fit and maintain a healthy weight, provide a nutritious, well-balanced diet, spay or neuter at an appropriate age, and minimize exposure to carcinogens like second hand smoke, excessive sunlight, fertilizers, pesticides.
Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, Inc. (PWDCA). (n.d.). https://www.pwdca.org/site_page.cfm?pk_association_webpage_menu=8869&pk_association_webpage=19398
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