Dogs are living many times longer than they had in the past. This is due to numerous reasons, advancements in medical technologies, the availability of pet health information, dogs living inside homes rather than outside and people taking better care of their pets in general. In the past dogs often times died due to common illnesses or accidents but now, due to their longer lifespans, dogs now face a new range of medical issues with one of those being cancer.
What is cancer?
Cancer is when abnormal cells multiply uncontrollably inside your pets body. Cancer may be either benign or malignant. Benign cancer is when the cancer does not invade nearby tissues staying in a particular area. Benign tumors can still be dangerous though if they press on nerves or blood vessels. A malignant tumor is cancer that invades nearby tissue through lymph or blood systems thus spreading throughout the body. Cancer will develop in 50% of dogs over age 10. These cancer rates are due to a number of factors including breed type. Inbred populations, such as those of purebreds, are often at higher risk of cancer than mixed-breed dogs. This is due to the fact that when you inbreed you don’t know what negative traits are being inherited including dispositions towards developing cancer. Dogs can develop many types of cancers including tumors on the skin. The most common skin tumor in dogs is mast cell tumors.
Mast Cell Tumors
Mast cell tumors are a skin and soft tissue cancer that occur in places such as the respiratory tract and intestines. These sorts of tumors make up 20% of all skin tumors in canines. The mast cells are part of the immune system and thus can cause complications if damaged or removed as the immune system is your dogs defense against illness. Any breed at any age can develop these types of tumors although certain breeds have a propensity to develop this type of cancer. Breeds such as those that have short wide heads like bulldogs, pugs, boxers, and terriers. It’s still hard to determine what causes most cancers. It is believed to perhaps be viral or a combination of environmental and hereditary factors. This tumor is not found in humans so there is less information for veterinarians to reference. Symptoms of mast cell tumors include blood in the stool, duodenal ulcers, vomiting, and bumps on or under the skin. Vets use a grading system to describe how likely a tumor is to be malignant. Grade I inhabit the skin and are considered benign, Grade II grow a little underneath the skin and could possibly be malignant, and Grade III which have aggressively invaded deep below the skin. There are multiple ways mast cell tumors are treated such as surgical removal where the tumor is removed carefully. Other forms of treatment include radiation and chemotherapy. Chemotherapy involves the usage of anti-cancer drugs such as corticosteroids, vinblastine, and lomustine. For mast cell tumors there has been a drug specifically developed to treat this type of cancer, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor named Palladia.
Palladia is the first FDA approved cancer treatment drug for canines. Palladia is an anti-cancer medication indicated for the treatment of grade II or grade III mast cell tumors. Most cancers in dogs are treated using human medicines, Palladia was specially formulated for the treatment of mast cell tumors in canines. Utilizing its tyrosine kinase inhibiting properties, Palladia has anti-tumor and anti-angiogenic properties which work to combat the tumor itself killing cancer cells and shutting off blood to the tumor. A staggering 42.8% of dogs showed responses to Palladia with at least a 30% reduction in tumor size.
Although treatments do exist for mast cell tumors in canines it is also important to remain positive and support your dog through these harsh times. The psychological well being of you and your dog is an important factor as well as the treatment in overcoming these obstacles.
If you have any questions about Palladia or if you think your dog may have cancer please contact your veterianarian.