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Diagnosing Cancer in Healthy Dogs

Each month, Plano veterinarian Dr. Shawn Messonnier will share his insights on topics of interest to our readers. If you have a concern you would like Dr. Shawn to address, email him at [email protected] .
dog puppy vet test blood

Each month, Plano veterinarian Dr. Shawn Messonnier will share his insights on topics of interest to our readers. If you have a concern you would like Dr. Shawn to address, email him at [email protected].

Since I treat many pets with cancer, I’m often asked if there is an accurate, inexpensive way to test dogs for cancer before they actually develop clinical signs of cancer. Such a test would be important as it would allow a healthy pet to be diagnosed early in the course of the disease, when it’s crucial to begin treatment.

Until now, the answer was “No.” Unfortunately, pets are not typically diagnosed with most cancers until they are well advanced and spread throughout the pet’s body. While chemotherapy can help some pets, due to the advanced stage of most cancer at the time of diagnosis, chemotherapy is unable to cure most cancers in our pets.

At the time of diagnosis of a common pet cancer, the cancer has actually been growing and spreading throughout the body for 6–12 months or longer. Wouldn’t it be great if we could diagnosis cancer at this earlier stage, before it has advanced to the point where a cure might not be possible? Wouldn’t it also be great if the tests were cost effective so all pet owners could utilize them to save their pets’ lives?

Early diagnosis would allow our therapies to be more effective, and in some cases, therapies such as chemotherapy might not even be needed, as natural medicines might be able to cure the cancer at this early stage!

Now, I’m happy to say that there is such a way to allow the detection of cancer and other inflammatory diseases before your pet becomes ill.

A new blood panel that detects inflammation and cancer is now available. The tests provide valuable information about the health status of your dog before overt signs of disease are observed. Early detection allows intervention prior to disease progression, when greater damage occurs and options become more expensive and limited.

The tests measure several aspects of cell irregularity: abnormal cell division and systemic inflammatory activity. Thymidine kinase (TK) is a measure of abnormal cell growth; as cancer cells divide TK is usually increased. C-reactive protein (CRP) is elevated in the presence of systemic inflammatory diseases including cancer.

In a large study group of 360 dogs checked up on for up to one year, incidence of cancer and serious disease were followed. The study showed that almost 100% of cancers were detected 4–6 months prior to the pet showing signs of cancer! This means that the cancers were caught early and treated before the pet became ill, reducing costs for the pet owner and improving the ability of the cancer treatment.

Designed to be part of a routine wellness plan, these cancer screening tests are the most comprehensive single-blood profile available in monitoring the overall health status of your dog.

In addition to screening for cancer, it is important to also check the vitamin D status of our canine patients. Low levels of vitamin D contribute to increased incidence of cancer and various infectious diseases. Giving dogs with low vitamin D levels the proper dosage of vitamin D (based upon test results and your pet’s weight) is easy, inexpensive and may reduce serious diseases later in life.

Over 90% of Plano dogs that have been tested to date are abnormal when administered this cancer profile and are at-risk for developing serious medical problems including cancer!

The tests are very cost-effective: The panel of all three screening tests can be run for under $200. Think about that. For under $200, you have a blood profile that screens your dog for cancer and other inflammatory diseases.

If the tests are positive, they prompt the search for cancer, encouraging the use of other diagnostic tests. If negative, we can feel confident the pet is unlikely to have detectable cancer at that time.

While these tests have been shown to be very accurate in early cancer detection, any test can miss cancer if the number of cancer cells is too small to detect. For this reason, pets with negative test results should be retested every 6 months.

Because cancer can develop even at an early age, this screening is recommended for all dogs. Only a small amount of blood is needed and results are available within a few weeks.

Pets with cancer also benefit from these tests as they allow us to fine-tune the pet’s treatment and determine when the cancer may be coming out of remission.

Talk with your pet’s doctor about doing this profile that can literally save your pet’s life.

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