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Cancer in Pocket Pets

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Signs and Symptoms

Early diagnosis is important for successful treatment and improving your pet’s quality of life. Look for these symptoms:

•    Change in physical appearance, such as a change in posture or attitude
•    Abnormal swelling
•    Sores that do not heal
•    Loss of appetite/weight loss
•    Bleeding or unusual discharge
•    Persistent lameness or stiffness
•    Difficulty eating
•    Disorientation, seizures or collapse

If you recognize one or more of these symptoms in your pet, talk to you veterinarian. Your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic tests to confirm the presence of a tumor and create a customized treatment plan for your pet.

A tumor (also known as neoplasm) is an abnormal growth of cells; this growth may be either benign or malignant. Benign tumors do not spread throughout the body and often have a limited impact on a pet’s overall health. Malignant tumors can develop in one location, such as a hormone-producing gland, and then spread to other body parts. Treatment and prognosis for malignant tumors depends on the type of cancer, where the tumor is located, and at what stage it is diagnosed.

Pancreatic tumors are one of the most common diseases affecting ferrets. Insulinoma is a tumor in the pancreas that causes excess secretion of insulin; this affects the body’s ability to regulate blood glucose level. Excess insulin causes hypoglycemia, which causes weakness and can cause other symptoms including disorientation, seizures, collapse, and partial paralysis of the hind legs.

Tumors are common for many pocket pets, including hamsters and gerbils. For example, hamsters are frequently diagnosed with benign tumors in the adrenal gland or lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system that can affect many organs. Tumors are common in a gerbil’s ventral marking glands and appear as sores. Skin tumors may appear as large masses along different parts of a gerbil’s body, including the ears and feet. Tumors affecting the internal organs are more difficult to identify in the early stages since obvious physical symptoms are not present.

A veterinarian with experience treating tumors in small animals and pocket pets can best diagnose the precise health condition affecting your ferret, gerbil or hamster. Your veterinarian will start with a physical examination. Depending on the type of tumor and its location, a variety of different diagnostic tests may be necessary. For example, ultrasound may be used to look for tumors. Needle biopsies,blood tests, or urinalysis may also be necessary for an accurate diagnosis.

If your pet is diagnosed with a tumor, treatment will depend on the type of tumor. In some cases, surgery to remove the tumor may be highly effective at extending your pet’s life, especially if the tumor is not malignant and cancer has not spread. Early diagnosis plays a critical role; any type of tumor is easier to treat when it is detected early. While some forms of aggressive cancers cannot be cured, your pet’s quality of life can be greatly enhanced when detected early. New diagnostic methods are improving early detection and increasing treatment success rate. This is why regular veterinary exams are critical for every pet.

Source:

American Veterinary Medical Association. “Cancer in Animals,” March 2010.

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Testimonial

Don't take a good vet for granted, that's what I say. I currently live in another state and have taken my 10 year old dog to numerous vets over the years (California, Colorado, Vegas, and then some). Never have I ever received the attention and care I've gotten w/Dr. Hines. Within the past 3 months alone, my dog went to 3 different vets for a horrible and painful skin problem that broke out all over her body.

The first vet: I spent more time ponying up the $175 for the visit than the Dr. spent actually looking at my dog. He performed a woods lamp exam for ringworm. Even without Google or a veterinary degree, I could tell it wasn't ringworm. Thanks for taking my money.
Second vet: "Here's some spray, now here's your bill. Bring her back in two weeks so I can charge you another visit." No tests, nothing.
Between the two, I felt like I got nowhere. No definitive answer on why this affected my dog and the medication given wasn't even for a diagnosed condition. Just some general topical spray. I could have bought it at Petsmart and saved myself the time and money.
Recently, on a visit to Idaho, I planned ahead to bring my dog to the Rupert Animal Clinic. I asked the same questions, had the same concerns and now have different results. Dr. Hines gave me options on what route to take, ran appropriate tests and communicated with me every step of the way (even calling me personally when test results came in). My primary concern was cancer. Our dog is like our child- we'll pay the money if we can keep her healthy and safe. In the future, I've resolved to bring my dog to Rupert Animal Clinic on our annual trip for all of her exams. I know she won't be treated as a little cash cow to exploit an owner's love for pets.

Sung L.
Rupert, ID

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