A Message from the Vet - July 2012

There are few words in the English language that stir emotion like the word cancer. Every year hundreds of pets in our practice are diagnosed with this illness. Cancer, or neoplasia, is the abnormal new growth of cells. There are some breeds that are predisposed to having certain forms of cancer and some that are afflicted seemingly without any reason or risk factors at all. Whatever the cause, it is good to know that veterinary medicine in this day and age offers treatment options for many different cancers.

The treatments for our veterinary patients are very similar to those in humans. Some treatment involves surgical removal of the cancer; other treatments include chemotherapy drugs or herbal therapies. Chemotherapy has a reputation of its own, and the potential side effects often send owners' minds racing. Fortunately, most veterinary patients tolerate chemotherapy very well.

The side effects of chemotherapy arise from how the drugs work. Chemotherapy drugs target rapidly dividing cells which include cancer cells, but also may affect other normal rapidly dividing cells in the body, such as cells responsible for hair growth, cells lining the intestinal tract, and cells produced by the bone marrow to fight infection. This results in the most notable side effects: hair loss, vomiting and diarrhea, and suppression of the immune system. However, in veterinary patients, these side effects are usually not as pronounced as in humans. Most dog breeds have a different type of hair growth than humans, which does not result in an abrupt hair loss. A dog may lose a small amount of fur around the muzzle and eyes. The gastrointestinal disturbances also are not usually as severe, and tend to pass within a few days.

With supportive care, most side effects will prove transient. There are many herbal therapies which can help support the immune system as well as resolve stagnation, which in traditional Chinese medicine is believed to cause cancer. There are herbals specifically formulated to help support animals who are receiving chemotherapy. These therapies can increase our patients' time with their owners as well as improve quality of life.

Everyday, veterinarians and human physicians alike work through research to develop safer and more effective treatments for cancer. We here at Kailua Animal Clinic support cancer research each year by participating in the Kailua Relay for Life. This year, this event will be held July 7-8th from 6pm - 6am at Kailua High School. Many small businesses in the community participate in this fundraiser, which has games, food, and entertainment. One of our crew members will be on the track at all times, walking or running for the cause. We are also accepting donations at the clinic in exchange for homemade nutritious doggy treats. The closer we are to the cure for humans, the closer we are to a cure for our beloved pets as well. Let's work together to wipe out cancer.

Candice Denham, DVM

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Last updated 2014 May 10.