The bad news: You have cancer.
The good news: Now you don’t.
We don’t say this to our clients. And hopefully your personal physician isn’t this glib with news either. But it’s most likely true.
On a daily basis, the cells in your dog or cat’s body — as well as the cells in your own — have to replace themselves. The body is making copies as it were.
In the course of a single day, millions of cells go through the genetic process of replicating themselves. New copies are made. Old cells die. Such is life.
But sometimes, the copying messes up. It could happen because of an unfortunate predisposition — bone cancers in giant breed dogs or breast cancer in some humans — or via damage to the cell’s genetic material such as from smoking. But errors are made all the time.
It’s just a number’s game. Millions of copies are made. But only one cancerous error occurs in a million processes. There you go.
Cancer cells look weird to the body. Their surfaces usually present proteins in ways the immune system does not like.
So the classic white blood cell us-versus-them confrontation takes place.
Dogs’, cats’, humans’ and platypuses’ antibodies kill the cancer cells before it ever has the chance to proliferate.
Another safety process involves the abnormal cell itself. In many cases, if the cell detects a massive error in its DNA, the cell goes into apoptosis or programmed cell death.
In other words, your cells have a self-destruct mechanism. If your skin has ever peeled after a sunburn, you’ve seen it in action.
So we all battle cancer constantly. And we usually win.
But sometimes, the cells don’t kill themselves.
Sometimes they slip by the immune system. At this point, cancer is present.
But there are still many ways to attack it.
Our pets can receive chemotherapy with very few side effects relative to what you see in humans. Pets may also undergo surgery or radiation therapy.
We can battle cancer and so can pets. If you have a pet with the disease, don’t give up.
As Jim Valvano said, “Don’t ever give up.”
Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at email@example.com