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What is Pet Cancer?

What is Pet Cancer?

Pet cancer, as it is in humans, is a generalized term for uncontrollable cell growth and production. Cancer can take many forms, from solitary tumors to lymphatic or blood cancers. No pet is immune to cancer, which is why it is important to understand and investigate why cancer develops in our pets.

How Does Cancer Develop?

Cancer can develop in many different ways. Your pet’s genes can play a large role in whether or not they are more vulnerable to developing cancer. Our cats and dogs are born with a specific set of genes passed from their parents. These genes are what give your pets its specific traits: breed, eye color, coat color, etc. But these genes can carry traits that make your pet more likely to develop cancer. Golden Retrievers, for example, are often used in canine cancer studies because of their higher risk of developing cancer. This may be an instance of cancer developing due to a pet’s genetic make-up.

Although cancer is a genetic disease, it is not always inherited. Your pet is often exposed to the same carcinogens that we are exposed to. These carcinogens, like second-hand cigarette smoke or ultraviolet light exposure, can cause mutations in your pet’s genes. These mutations could trigger your pet’s cells to begin multiplying uncontrollably, causing your pet to develop cancer.

Benign vs. Malignant Tumors

If your pet has been diagnosed with a tumor, it may be benign or malignant. Benign tumors are not classified as cancerous. Benign masses lack the ability to metastasize (or spread) to a different organ or organ system. Although a benign mass isn’t technically cancer, the cells replicate much like a cancer would and can cause irreversible damage if not monitored closely and treated appropriately.

The term malignant tumor is used when a tumor found in or on your pet is cancerous. These tumors, left unchecked, have the ability to metastasize. Often, tumors can be identified prior to metastasis, especially those tumors that can be physically felt or seen. If you find any lumps or bumps on your pet, it is always best to consult your veterinarian for further diagnosis.


Metastasis is the spread of neoplastic cells (cells with unregulated growth and production). This video describes how cancer can metastasize.

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