Healthy dogs should have early detection cancer screens. The reason for this is that veterinarians often fail to eradicate cancer in a given dog. The fact that cancer is the single number one cause of dog death should make this clear.
If you have a dog of about 10 years of age or more, statistics show that this dog will have a 40-50% chance of dying of cancer. This is scary data!!
The problem is that we (veterinarians like myself) are lagging behind in our recommendations. By the time a dog develops cancer to the point where there are visible signs, we are often too late to do anything of benefit using conventional veterinary care.
Certain breeds are more at risk for cancers than others. Common examples that come to mind are the Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, Scottish Terrier, Boxer, Mastiff, Burnese Mountain Dog, Cocker, Labrador Retriever, Pug, Sharpei, Greyhound, Flat Coated Retriever, Chow, Collie, Irish Wolfhound, and American Bulldog, just to name a few.
Mixed breed dogs, as well as other breeds, get cancer too.
We really need to get involved doing early cancer screening. Sadly, blood testing for dog cancers is way behind that of human medicine. There is, however, a lymphoma test put out by Pet Screen which is a good quality test that would be worth considering in older dogs prone to lymphoma like the Golden, Cocker, Lab, or Boxer. Veterinarians and dog lovers need to team up to make sure the test results are interpreted accurately. Talk to your vet about getting new information on this new technology.
Scotties are 18 times prone to transitional cell carcinoma than other breeds. Senior Scotties could benefit from a urine test called the Veterinary Bladder Tumor Antigen (v-TBA). Although this test is a bit tricky to interpret if positive, a negative test result is usually accurate and reliable. That means a negative v-TBA is usually real, but a positive v-TBA may be false.
We really should be using the ultrasound to check the abdomen of these at-risk dogs on a regular basis. This is a harmless tool that emits sound waves to produce an image. Most have seen ultrasound images of a developing child during pregnancy.
This tool can look at the liver, spleen, kidneys, bladder, prostate (in males), lymph nodes, and more. It is a great way to scan the inner world of a dog, giving information that neither a physical exam or an X-ray could.
General blood work and urine testing is a good idea in senior dogs to screen for overall health.
The Dog Cancer Survival Guide discusses these topics in more detail.
At this point in the development of our profession, it is high time we vets start pushing for early cancer detection. Don’t be afraid to bring this topic up to your veterinarian, and be your dog’s number one health advocate!
Best to all,