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Anal Sac Adenocarcinoma - Everything A Dog Owner Should Know

This article covers all of the basics that a dog owner should know about apocrine gland anal sac adenocarcinoma (AGASACA or anal sac adenocarcinoma for short). 

Please keep in mind that every dog is different, every dog's cancer is different, and medicine is not black and white. 

If your dog has anal sac adenocarcinoma, consider a consultation with a veterinary oncologist for all of the latest information as well as treatment options that apply specifically to your dog and your dog's cancer.

What It Is

A malignant tumor (carcinoma) located in the anal sacs arising from apocrine cells. If you think of the dog's anus as a clock face (strange, I know) the anal sacs are located at 4 and 8 o'clock. 

Benign tumors of the anal sac are very rare, however, dogs may have perianal (around the anus but not involving the anal sac) tumors, which are frequently benign. Talk to your vet or an oncologist if your dog has a perianal or anal sac tumor.

Even though...

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When Is It Okay To Monitor A Skin Tumor?

 "Just monitor it."

Have you ever been told to "just monitor" a skin mass (tumor) on your dog by a veterinarian?  How do you know if this is the right recommendation? How do you know when monitoring makes sense versus obtaining a diagnosis?

Many readers have been asking this question lately (if you've been wondering about this you're not alone) so I've decided to address it with this article. 

The Big Picture

The answer to whether you should monitor your dog's skin tumor (versus obtaining a diagnosis) really comes down to whether you would treat your dog if the tumor were benign or malignant.

This is why a vet shouldn't decide this for you. Only you can know if you would treat, so you should make this decision.

A Few Things To Know First

The first thing I have to mention is that a vet cannot be certain that a tumor is benign just by "looking" at it. Many cancerous tumors look and feel EXACTLY the same as benign tumors, so the ONLY way to determine if a tumor is...

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Indolent Lymphoma - The Lymphoma That We Don't Treat

What is indolent lymphoma?

Indolent lymphoma is a group of low-grade lymphomas that are slowly progressive and most don't benefit from treatment with chemotherapy.  These lymphomas comprise up to 1/3 of all canine lymphoma.

Since the disease course is vastly different from the more common and more aggressive large cell lymphoma, an accurate diagnosis is essential.

Examples of indolent lymphoma include t zone lymphoma, marginal zone lymphoma, mantle cell and follicular lymphoma.

T zone lymphoma actually accounts for 12% of all lymphoma in dogs and is frequently misdiagnosed.

Forty percent of dogs that develop t zone lymphoma are golden retrievers - it is most common in this breed. The median age at diagnosis (half are older and half are younger) is 10 years; most dogs have enlarged lymph nodes and an elevated lymphocyte count on blood work.

Typically a patient will present with one or more enlarged large lymph nodes that can be felt on physical exam or an enlarged...

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Lymphoma, An Oncologic Emergency

Lymphoma is not just one disease. There are actually many different types of lymphoma that affect dogs and people. What they have in common is their origin from lymphoid cells that become cancerous. Lymphoma typically starts in lymph nodes, spleen or bone marrow, but can develop in almost any tissue in the body (including the skin!).

Lymphoma accounts for roughly 7% to 24% of all canine cancer. It typically affects middle-aged to older dogs. 

Breeds that have been associated with an increased incidence of lymphoma include Boxers, bullmastiffs, basset hounds, St. Bernards, Scottish terriers, Airedales, and bulldogs. Dachshunds and Pomeranians have a lower than average risk.

Lymphoma is typically considered a fairly chemo-responsive disease. This means that for our more common lymphomas (a dog that presents with very large lymph nodes), remission is expected, and can often be achieved after one or two doses of chemotherapy.

Partial remission means that the lymphoma...

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What Is Radiation Therapy Like For Dogs?

There are many misconceptions around radiation treatment. Many dog owners feel that radiation therapy involves a pill or is a treatment that will send toxins throughout the body making their dog feel ill. 

The truth is that this description of radiation could not be further from reality. It's important to understand radiation therapy, not only because it's an excellent treatment option for many types of cancer in dogs, but also because it's a common medical treatment that you or a loved one might undergo in the future.

This article will discuss the basics of veterinary radiation oncology including who performs radiation, what radiation therapy is, common indications, types of radiation therapy, and possible side effects.

Who Performs Radiation Therapy?

Radiation oncologists determine the best radiation protocols for your dog and oversee all radiation treatments. Typically, a medical oncologist will refer you to a radiation oncologist if they feel that radiation would be helpful...

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What To Expect From A Veterinary Oncologist Consultation

If your dog has cancer, meeting with a veterinary oncologist can be a very valuable experience. An oncologist has a completely different skillset and knowledge base than other veterinary specialists and general practitioners.

We've attended four years of veterinary school as well as an additional four to five years of training to become an oncologist. We've also passed rigorous exams and published original research in oncology to become board certified. As an oncologist, we only see patients with cancer, all-day everyday. 

Our goal is to help you gain a better understanding of your dog's cancer, your treatment options, cost and side effects associated with each treatment, and determine how long your dog might be expected to live with each option. We want you to be able to choose a treatment that you feel is best for you and for your dog. 

Often additional tests are needed to provide accurate information about lifespan. We need to know if cancer has spread...

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Is Cancer In Dogs Painful?

When I first meet a client and their dog during an oncology consultation, one question that almost always comes up is whether or not their dog is painful. 

We never want our dogs to be in pain or uncomfortable, and if they are, we definitely want to know how to fix it.

This article will discuss tumors commonly associated with pain, common signs of pain in dogs, and other ways that cancer can cause dogs to feel poorly.

Knowing what to look for is the first step towards helping your dog feel better.

Tumors Commonly Associated with Pain

Tumors invading bone - 
Any tumor that invades bone will be painful. The most common places to have a tumor affecting bone is on the legs, ribs, and in the mouth.

Dogs do a very good job of hiding pain and don't express pain like we do (they don't typically vocalize). If a dog has a tumor that invades bone, they should be on pain medication (even if you don't think they're obviously painful).

You can determine if there is bone...

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Can Dog Cancer Be Cured?

If a dog has a benign tumor that is completely and successfully removed with surgery, we expect them to be cured of that disease. Benign tumors cannot spread to distant organs and if surgery was adequate, the tumor will not regrow at the surgery site. 

Veterinary oncologists tend not to use the word 'cure' when talking about malignant tumors. A malignant tumor is basically any tumor that has the ability to spread to another organ.

There are many cases where we expect that a patient will live for years after successful treatment and that they will ultimately die from something else, but because we cannot predict with 100% certainty that their cancer will not return in some way, we cannot use the word cure.

For example, if a patient is successfully treated for low-grade soft tissue sarcoma, grade I mast cell tumor, or low-grade II mast cell tumor, we expect that they will live for years and will eventually pass away from something else.

Even though this is the expectation, we...

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What Do Dog Cancer Masses Feel Like?

What does cancer look and feel like?

In short, it can look and feel like anything. 

These skin tumors can feel soft or firm, they can be covered in fur, ulcerated or hairless, they can also be painless, itchy or uncomfortable.

Sure, there are some types of skin masses (types of tumors) that tend to have a distinct appearance, where we might say "oh, that looks like a mast cell tumor" or "that's probably a soft tissue sarcoma". Then we take a sample (needle aspirate) to establish a diagnosis and make sure we're correct. 

Where we can get into trouble is when we presume that a tumor is benign because it looks and feels like a lipoma (or skin tag). We never want to make the mistake of assuming a tumor is benign, just by looking at it or feeling it. We need to sample all tumors to establish an accurate diagnosis.

A lipoma is a benign (cured with surgery) tumor of fat that feels soft and lives under the surface of the skin (in the subcutaneous tissues). As long as a lipoma is...

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Is Dog Cancer Contagious?

Have you ever wondered if you could catch cancer from your dog or if your dog could spread their cancer to other dogs? 

If so, you're not alone! I'm asked this question frequently at my oncology practice, and it's a common question asked of Google as well. 

The good news is that cancer in dogs does not spread to people. So you can rest assured that you and your loved ones cannot catch cancer from your dog (nor from other dogs). 

The interesting thing is that there is one type of cancer, typically seen in tropical and sub-tropical climates such as in the Southern US, Central and South America, China, the Far East and Middle East, and parts of Africa, that is transmitted from dog to dog.

Transmissible Venereal Tumor (TVT) is transmitted from dog to dog by close physical contact and usually affects the genitals - so it's often sexually transmitted. It can also be transmitted by licking, biting or sniffing tumor-affected areas, so the nose and mouth can be affected...

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