Can Puppies and Kittens Get Cancer?

Common, but Typically Benign

The most common tumor identified in a British study of biopsies in pediatric dogswas the cutaneous histiocytoma. When I see a young dog with a skin mass resembling a raspberry or strawberry on the skin, I immediately think histiocytoma, in part because these benign tumors are so common. Occasionally I see histiocytomas in mature dogs as well. The British study showed nearly 90 percent of tumors biopsied in pediatric canine patients were histiocytomas. Like warts, histiocytomas will regress spontaneously, but if they are messy and bleeding or occur in a location like the paw, which is painful, veterinarians often remove these tumors surgically. The British study also identified a small number of malignant tumors such as mast cell tumors, lymphoma and osteosarcoma in puppies. The malignant “blastoma” type tumors seen in children thankfully appear to be extremely rare in puppies based on the results of the British study. In comparison, in adult dogs, the most common type of cancer varies geographically. In Europe, for example, breast cancer dominates, while in the United States, lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma are more frequently diagnosed.

Of Concern for Kittens

The same group of veterinary researchers in England who did the puppy study also conducted a study of biopsies in kittens.However, the results were vastly different. In the dog study, nearly 50 percent of the total number of biopsies submitted to the lab from puppies were tumors, either benign or malignant, but in the cat study, only 6 percent of the total number of biopsies submitted to the lab were tumors. The researchers do not specify the results of the other 94 percent of biopsies, but I would suspect they found ringworm, abscesses and post-vaccination inflammation. But the 6 percent in this study was too high for me since it found that nearly all the tumors diagnosed in kittens as opposed to puppies were malignant. As in adult cats, the most common tumor diagnosed via biopsy in kittens is lymphoma, followed by mast cell tumors and then a group of tumors known as carcinomas. Benign tumors ranked low, at the bottom of the list. Similar to the dog, malignant tumors arising from immature cells (those ending in “blastoma” as seen in children) were extremely rare in kittens based on the results of the feline survey.

Pet Cancer Awareness

Since even the youngest furry family member can develop cancer, all pet families should familiarize themselves with vetstreet’s 10 Warning Signs of Cancer in Pets.Although relatively uncommon, certain pediatric pet tumors can be malignant so you should never hesitate to bring any lump on your pet to your veterinarian’s attention regardless of the age of your pet.

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