Finding any sort of lump or bump on your pet can be a very scary moment, and often the first thing that comes to mind is that dreaded word “cancer”. While it is always a good idea to have worrisome lumps checked out buy your pet’s veterinarian, keep in mind that not all lumps are tumors and not all tumors are cancerous.
Tumors are abnormal growths of body tissue and they can either be classified as cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign). Cancerous tumors can spread at a rapid rate and can metastasize to other areas of the body. Common malignant tumors in pets include mammary gland tumors, mast cell tumors, oral tumors, malignant melanoma and fibrosarcoma.
While hearing that your pet has a malignant tumor can be devastating, the good news is that with early detection and prompt treatment, even some of the more serious tumors can be successfully treated.
Benign tumors on the other hand are less serious as they generally stay in once place and do not have the ability to metastasize to other areas of the body. However, some benign tumors can grow to mammoth proportions and when they are left untreated they can eventually cause serious complications.
One of the most common tumors seen in vet rooms is lipomas which are benign soft tissue tumors composed of fatty tissue. Usually found under the skin, these growths are painless and in many cases completely harmless to your pet.
What Causes Tumors?
Tumors occur when there is a problem with the way in which cells of the body divide. Cell division is a strictly controlled process, with new cells being created to replace old cells, and damaged cells, dying so that they can be replaced. However, when this balance is disturbed, a tumor can develop.
While a clear cause of a tumor is not always know, there are a few known contributing factors. Among these are a lowered immune system, obesity, genetic problems, and excessive exposure to sunlight. Poor diet, environmental toxicity and exposure to toxins such as cigarette smoke have also been known to cause tumors.
Whatever the suspected cause, all foreign growths found on your pet should be taken seriously and a trip to the vet is necessary. Your veterinarian will examine your pet and the tumor, if it is an external one, and may ask you a number of questions about other possible symptoms.
After this, your vet may suggest a biopsy which is usually necessary to determine if the growth is cancerous. Depending on the case, this can be done with either a simple needle biopsy, or by having the tumor removed and biopsied post-operatively. Once a definite diagnosis has been made, your veterinarian can advise what treatment options would best suit your pet.
The treatment of tumors depends entirely on the type of tumor and the severity. Small benign tumors such as lipomas that are not growing and are not causing your pet any discomfort may simply be monitored regularly, while other tumors require swift surgical removal and possibly further treatments if the tumor was cancerous.
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Surgery – Many tumors whether malignant or benign require surgical removal either to prevent any cancerous cells from spreading to other areas of the body or in the case of benign tumors, to prevent excessive growth and damage to surrounding tissue.
Chemotherapy – If the tumor is found to be malignant then chemotherapy may be recommended. This type of treatment involves administering doses of certain chemicals that are highly toxic to fast developing cells thereby killing off cancer cells in the body.
Radiation – Also used when dealing with cancerous tumors, radiation therapy works by killing cancer cells and shrinking the tumor. Radiation therapy works by destroying cells in the area being treated by damaging their DNA or genetic material thus making it impossible for these cells to grow and divide.
Our domestic pets do not have access to all the herbs and natural ingredients necessary for healthy immune systems, and so it is up to us pet owners to provide these for our pets. While tumors are serious and often require conventional treatments, there are many natural ingredients which have immune strengthening properties and which have the ability to cleanse the system and support healthy cells in the body.
Echinacea purpurea is a well known herb that acts as a tonic for the immune system and lymphatic system. Other herbs with immune supporting properties include Astragalus membranaceous, and Mistletoe, while Milk Thistle and Indian ginseng both act as restorative and revitalizing tonic herbs.
Because tumors are often surgically removed, the medicinal qualities of homeopathic ingredients such as Arnica (30C) and Calendula (30C) can go a long way in assisting the swift recovery of your pet. These natural ingredients work by supporting the body’s own natural restorative functions while having a tonic effect on the skin, bones, muscles and connective tissue.
Not all tumors can be prevented, however by promoting a healthy life-style in your pet and by following a few precautionary measures the chances of some tumors as well as other cancers can be reduced.
Tips for preventing tumors
* Mammary tumors are a common type of tumor seen in pets, especially in female pets. This type of tumor can be greatly reduced by simply having your pet spayed at an early age (preferably before the first heat-cycle). Neutering your male pet also reduces the chances of them developing testicular tumors.
* Ensure that your pet is eating a healthy high-quality diet that is low in preservatives and artificial ingredients. Certain foods such as onions and chocolate are toxic to some animals so keep these away from your pet.
* Just like humans, animals are susceptible to the damaging effects of environmental toxicity. Try to avoid the use of harsh chemical sprays and products around your pet and aim to make your house a smoke-free zone.
* Monitor the amount of time your pet is exposed to direct sunlight. This is not always easy, but certain types of tumors, especially those that develop on the eyelids, ears, and nose can de triggered by excessive sunlight. This is particularly true for white pets.
* Encourage your pet to exercise. Obesity is a leading cause of many health complications including tumors and it is something that can be prevented with a healthy diet and a little bit of exercise. Take your dog for regular walks and spend time.