Detecting Cancer Pain in Dogs and Cats
Pain is very common in pets with cancer, and can often be detected with careful observation of their behavior. Pain can negatively impact your pet's quality of life and important physiological functions. Pain is often secondary to the tumor itself, or a result of invasive diagnostic, drug, and chemical treatments. Untreated pain lessens quality of life in all pets and prolongs suffering and recovery. It should be a top priority to relieve pain in pets with cancer, and to educate pet owners about how to recognize and manage pain in their furry friends. Some tumors are more likely to cause pain than others, and may include tumors of the bone, nervous system, digestive tract, breast, bladder, kidney, prostate, nasal cavity, and certain skin tumors.
Symptoms of Pain in Pets with Cancer
Symptoms your pet is in cancer-related pain include changes in normal activity level, changes in behavior (such as avoiding social interactions), reluctance to move, decreased appetite, changes in attitude and facial expression, excessive reaction to touch, respiratory changes, licking or scratching around the tumor site, vocalization, and inappropriate urination or defecation.
Tests Used to Diagnose Cancer in Dogs and Cats
A complete veterinary examination is recommended for any pet suspected of having cancer, including a thorough physical, blood work, and urine testing. If possible, needle aspiration of any abnormal swelling or lump should be done to make a preliminary diagnosis. X-rays and ultrasounds of the abdomen or chest often help to determine whether the cancer has spread to any internal organs. In certain cases, CT scans and MRIs can determine whether cancer has spread to the central nervous system. Definitive diagnosis of any cancer, however, is only possible with tissue biopsy samples evaluated by a veterinary pathologist under a microscope. Results of this biopsy often guide a specific course of therapy, and grade or stage the cancer in order to determine your pet's prognosis.