Cancer can be a frightening diagnosis for humans, and it is for pets and their owners as well. The most common types of cancer for dogs is lymphoma and mammary gland cancer, while cats tend to suffer from leukemia, according to the Pet Cancer Foundation. Around 60 percent of dogs over the age of 6 will diagnosed with cancer, and the disease accounts for more than half of all pet deaths after the age of 10, the foundation reports.
Another type of cancer found in pets is mesothelioma. This cancer attacks the lining of internal organs. It is usually found in the pleura, which surrounds the lungs. It can also be found in the lining of the heart and abdominal cavity. The cancer is most often caused by exposure to asbestos. Animals are capable of breathing in the dangerous fibers just like humans. Dogs tend to develop the disease more quickly than humans after exposure. Mesothelioma prognosis can be grim if it is not detected early.
Research studies have found that certain breeds of dogs are more susceptible to mesothelioma. Those breeds are Irish setters, German shepherds and Bouvier des Flandres. Male dogs develop the disease more than female dogs.
Just as with humans, a variety of technology and treatment advances has improved the outlook for pet cancer patients. After determining the type, spread and severity of the cancer, veterinarians will use surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation or some combination of treatments.
Pets, however, have been able to assist in the fight against cancer by providing support and comfort to human sufferers of the disease. Trained human and dog, and sometimes cat, partners visit hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Research has shown that interaction with pets can aid recovery by improving patients' mental and physical wellbeing. Petting and interacting with dogs and cats helps reduce blood pressure, triglyceride and cholesterol levels and feelings of loneliness.
Dogs that visit cancer patients usually undergo training to deal with unusual settings, like hospitals, and people who are experiencing stress and may not be themselves. The American Kennel Society offers the Canine Good Citizen certification, and several other pet therapy groups offer workshops, testing and certification.