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Cancer in Older Pets

Stroking CatThere’s added value in petting your older pet: you might see signs of cancer earlier.

We pet our pets because, well, we love them. It makes us both feel great. But petting your pet can also help you spot some health conditions early. And if your pet’s past his 10th birthday, one of those conditions might be cancer. About half of all dogs and a third of cats will develop cancer after age 10. But, as with humans, catching it early makes treatment much easier.

According to animal cancer experts at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, any pet can get cancer. And the most common types of pet cancer are also common in us humans: cancers of the skin, bone and lymph nodes. Watch for these signs of cancer that you’ll be more likely to notice if you spend regular time grooming and petting:

  • Lumps or bumps under the skin, especially if they grow or change.
  • Wounds that won't heal—and which might be hidden under the fur. Pay special attention to wounds on the face or toes.
  • Unexplained weight loss, when you might be able to feel your pet’s ribs more and more easily.
  • Bad breath and other bad odors.

Other signs of cancer include a change in behavior, trouble going to the bathroom, not having energy, having trouble breathing, not wanting to eat, and having trouble walking.

The most likely benefit of petting your pet is a stronger bond between the two of you. But the added bonus of catching health issues early can lead to a longer, healthier life for your pet.

Have you been the first to notice a health issue in your pet? What signs or symptoms clued you in?

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