CAPS Rescue Fund
The CAPS Rescue Fund benefits from your support. CAPS has rescued a number of puppy mills dogs during its investigations of USDA licensed facilities. We have placed most of these dogs in wonderful homes. A few older dogs are in long-term foster care, and CAPS is responsible for the cost of their care. Not only will your donation help with the expenses for the foster dogs, but it will also help cover veterinary bills, including spaying and neutering, for additional dogs that we rescue from puppy mills.
Gizmo, Spring 2002. He has a wonderful home and his fur is growing back.View items...
CAPS comment for USDA's proposed regulation of Internet breedersFounded by President Deborah Howard in 1992, the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) is the only national nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to protecting companion animals from cruelty in pet shops and puppy mills. CAPS actively addresses the abuse and suffering of pet shop and puppy mill dogs through investigations, education, media relations, legislative involvement, puppy mill dog rescues, consumer assistance and pet industry employee relations.
Below are examples of investigations and outreach concerning the sale of puppies via the Internet. We are also including a chart that summarizes some of our complaints. CAPS has an online complaint form for purchasers of puppies, kittens and other animals.
Puppies Direct, MissouriCAPS has been investigating online puppy sellers since the early days of the Internet. In 1998, we investigated Puppies Direct (Appendix A-1), a consortium of then current and former USDA-licensed Missouri-based (one Iowa) breeders led by Mickalyn Crawford in LaGrange. CAPS investigated Crawford in 1999 and 2001 and rescued several dogs from her facility, where we documented many AWA violations.
Crawford would only provide us with the first name of the breeders. However, we were able to figure out who they were. Most of these breeders still have USDA licenses. When we were investigating these breeders in 1998, Tammy Burchett and Joe McVeigh had dropped their USDA licenses. Burchett, who is now in Missouri, obtained another license in 2010. Joe McVeigh was charged with animal cruelty in 1998.
According to a December 1, 1997 USDA inspection report signed by Harold Becker, McVeigh had no non-compliant items. The Scotland County Sheriff's Department raided McVeigh's facility on January 20, 1998. Humane Society of Missouri employees and Mary Martin, an inspector from the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA), went with two sheriff deputies. They found seven dead dogs on the property – all who had starved to death. There were cannibalized dogs and skeletal remains in the snow. McVeigh had more than 120 live dogs. The Humane Society of Missouri report stated that the ground under the raised wood and wire pens was saturated with urine and feces. There was about an inch of snow on the ground. There was no food or drinkable water in any of the pens. Some of the bowls contained frozen water.
In the fall of 1998, CAPS investigators visited Joe McVeigh's kennel in Memphis, MO. McVeigh was using hog panels to construct dog runs on the ground. The pens stood independently of each other and did not appear to be soundly constructed. One can disassemble and move these pens. Our investigators noted that McVeigh must move the pens periodically in lieu of proper cleaning and sanitizing. The watering containers were plastic buckets around five gallons in size. The water was not clean and potable. McVeigh allowed dogs to run freely on the property near the main highway. McVeigh remarked that he had been "raided by the Missouri Humane Society in early 1998."
McVeigh had about a dozen dogs at the time of our investigation but had no federal or state license. Yet, he was selling puppies through Crawford’s Puppies Direct online business. Burchett appeared to be out of business.
CNN Story about Wizard of Claws
On May 11, 2006 CNN aired a lengthy segment entitled, “Sick Puppies Dog Some Online Purchasers.” In this story on Internet puppy sales, CNN Consumer Correspondent Greg Hunter interviewed CAPS President Deborah Howard, who addressed the issues involved with Internet puppy buying and showed video footage of puppy mills that sell to The Hunte Corporation, the largest puppy brokerage facility in the country. The story focused on Celebrity Kennels (aka Wizard of Claws) in Florida, which obtained many of their puppies from Hunte. Celebrity Kennels also sold puppies both through a strip mall storefront, where they showed puppies to consumers who sit in a waiting room, and over the internet. Just because pet shops and online sellers have celebrity customers doesn’t mean that these puppy merchants obtain puppies from reputable breeders. Wizard of Claws went out of business as the result of a consumer class action lawsuit.
Robin Schulder, Queens, NYIn 2007 and 2008, CAPS received a number of consumer complaints about Robin Schulder, who had several Internet puppy businesses selling various breeds, including one that sold expensive “guard dogs.” She also claimed to be running a rescue. See Daily News article and email correspondence between CAPS President Deborah Howard and Robin Schulder (Appendix A-2). We turned over these complaints to the Office of the New York Attorney General. Schulder was selling sick puppies and violating the New York lemon law. We also gave them undercover footage taken by a CAPS investigator who visited Robin in her home to look at puppies. She lived on a 2,000 sf lot; there was no evidence that she was breeding dogs herself, although she claimed to be a breeder of the dogs she was selling. See attached Petition by the State of New York dated January 6, 2010 (Appendix A-3), Stipulation of Settlement dated April 6, 2012 (Appendix A-4) and Order Authorizing the Stipulation of Settlement, etc. (Appendix A-5). Schulder filed for bankruptcy so it was only just recently that funds were released to the state to satisfy the settlement on behalf of the consumer plaintiffs.
North Country KennelsCAPS also received several complaints about sick puppies sold by North Country Kennels (mixedbreedpups.com) in Ironton, MN. See attached CAPS fact sheet: Why You Shouldn’t Buy That Puppy in the Window (Appendix A-6). Because this Internet seller lives in Minnesota, which has no state licensing and inspection program, she never gets inspected. The site lists 17 types of “designer” small breed dogs and seven types of purebred dogs. One can only imagine how many breeding dogs she has on the property. On the FAQ page, she states that the facility is inspected – every two or three years by AKC.
Korean Teacup Puppy DealersCAPS has been investigating Internet sellers of Korean teacup puppies. We have complaints for two dealers: Ashley Anderson and Ginger Turk (Appendix A-7):
Boutique Teacup Puppieshttp://www.mspuppyconnection.com/ and http://www.boutiqueteacuppuppies.com/
Las Vegas, Nevada.
Relocated from Mississippi to Las Vegas in April. Only her personal Facebook account is visible: https://www.facebook.com/#!/Ashleynanderson82
See CAPS complaint for Nichole Casper in Boston area who bought a puppy that died of parvovirus. Broker was Jung Puppy Club (see below).
The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office is investigating Anderson’s previous online dog businesses.
Beverly Hills Teacupshttp://www.beverlyhillsteacups.com/
Formerly Once Upon A Teapup. She is using a different name, probably because the other company was involved in a fraud complaint, forging signature of a vet. Ginger forged her vet’s name to CVIs, resulting in her being charged with forgery in CA. Ginger was previously using Jung Puppy Club, which may be associated with Victory Puppy Club.
Other CAPS Complaints from Internet CustomersSee attached chart summarizing some of our complaints (Appendix A-8).
Internet Sellers Acting as Brokers Without a Federal LicenseCritters and Pets, a San Clemente-based online seller of puppies illegally brokered to I Heart Puppies in Corona del Mar, California (now out of business). They did no breeding and instead obtained dogs from USDA-licensed facilities in the Midwest, such as Barb Crick in Nebraska 47-A-0426, who is under investigation by APHIS. We filed a report with Dr. Gerald Rushin in July 2011. We can no longer find a website for them.
Judy Hulett sells to individuals via a website but also brokers to Puppy Town in Sarasota without a license; there are no CVIs filed with Florida Department of Agriculture.
Name: Hulett, Judy
Address: 91 Pittman Farm Rd
RecommendationsWhile complaints filed with CAPS about sick puppies from pet shops still outnumber Internet puppy complaints, this may change as more municipalities pass ordinances banning the sale of pet shop puppies/kittens and some pet shops offer adoption animals only. Some Internet breeders or sellers have a USDA and/or state license while others, such as North Country Kennels, aren’t subject to any government licensing or inspection. That is why it is imperative that USDA/APHIS implement a regulation that closes a loophole that has allowed breeders and brokers to sell dogs and cats sight unseen over the Internet or via the phone or mail without being subject to federal licensing and inspection. Websites that have numerous breeders selling puppies, such as Next Day Pets, Terrific Pets and Puppy Find, will need to be monitored. We are glad to hear that companies and individuals that broker (no breeding at all) to individuals via the Internet will also be covered.
Over the years, we have investigated individuals, such as Wendy Laymon (previously in Washington but moved to Missouri due to numerous legal problems and serving time in WA) who sold puppies through newspaper ads. These individuals did no breeding and instead obtained puppies from commercial breeding facilities, mostly USDA-licensed, in the Midwest. Those who sell through newspapers should also be covered, whether they are breeding themselves and have at least five breeding females or are obtaining puppies and other animals from other sources. People who sell through newspapers typically meet prospective customers in a parking lot. Wendy met customers in McDonald’s and WalMart lots. The customers saw just one puppy and could not see the conditions in which these puppies lived.
Wendy Laymon lost her USDA license for three years effective April 2009 and now sells online:
Home Care for Vomiting and/or Diarrhea
If our gastrointestinal system is upset, for whatever reason (virus, stress, foods), the first thing it needs is rest. No solid food of any kind should be given for 24 hours. Staying hydrated is important, however, especially for small animals. Pick up a bottle or two of generic pediatric electrolyte water at the drug store and offer this instead of your pet's regular water. I usually get the unflavored variety. If your companion animal doesn't like it, offer bottled or filtered water instead. It's important that they continue drinking to avoid dehydration.
It's nearly always safe to give your dog Pepto-BismolÂ®; a teaspoon three times a day for a small dog and a tablespoon for a large dog. Tablets are just as effective, and it does soothe the stomach. This product has aspirin-like qualities, so do not use it for cats. KaopectateÂ® can be used in both dogs and cats, using the infant dosage.
Since there is inflammation of the stomach or intestines in many cases, an injection is often helpful to reduce the turmoil and settle things down. We prefer a combination of penicillin, dexamethasone, CentrineÂ®, and vitamin C. This gives an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmotic, and vitamin C for recovery. For dogs we also may send home an antispasmotic tablet to be given three times a day. If there is diarrhea, you'll want to use these tablets until the stool is formed, then stop.
After the 24 hours, you can offer your pet small amounts or their regular food. In severe cases, you might want to cook some rice and hamburger (pour off the fat), and just offer a small amount of half rice and half hamburger for a couple days, gradually adding their regular food. Don't push the food too soon or too fast. Remember the last time you had intestinal flu. You probably only wanted toast and soup when you started getting better.
If your pet is not obviously better within two or three days, don't hesitate to call your veterinarian. These things usually pass quickly, but if prolonged, there may be another problem.
Dr. Don Allen Takes Stand Against Pet Shop Industry
CAPS Board Member Urges Other Vets to Follow His Lead
The "Dateline" story featured CAPS board member Dr. Donald Allen. He has been active in educating his veterinary clients about the pet shop industry for 15 years. Chris Hansen of "Dateline" showed Dr. Allen hidden camera footage of Nielsen Farms, a breeding/brokering facility in Kansas. Dr. Allen agreed with Mr. Hansen that the footage showed dogs with open wounds, mange and eye problems. Dr. Allen noted that these dogs are "[s]till popping out puppies."
Dr. Allen went undercover with Mr. Hansen to three Petlands in Ohio. Although he couldn't examine every puppy, in just one day, Dr. Allen spotted some potentially serious problems that he said are likely linked to how the puppies were bred. He saw one puppy with demodectic mange. According to Dr. Allen, this condition is hereditary, and it was likely that all of the puppies in this litter had it. Dr. Allen also examined a Chihuahua with an open fontanel, a hereditary condition in which the skull hasn't closed around the dog's brain and a bop on the head could be fatal.
Dr. Allen noted that pet shop warranties are pretty much worthless. He told Mr. Hansen that he has seen three-year-old puppies develop epilepsy, hip dysplasia and luxating patellas -- conditions that are not always readily apparent in the first year. State puppy lemon laws usually provide just one-year warranties for hereditary defects.
Dr. Allen's companion animal practice in Youngstown, Ohio cares for dogs, cats, reptiles, birds and exotic animals. Prior to starting his own veterinary clinic in 1992, Dr. Allen was Medical Director of Animal Charity, a nonprofit private humane society and veterinary facility in Youngstown. During his five years at Animal Charity, he discovered that a number of sick puppies requiring treatment had been purchased at a local Docktor Pet Center.
After Dr. Allen went to the Docktor Pet Center and questioned the source of the puppies -- an employee denied the puppies were from mills -- he received a call from the franchise owner. The owner stated that he did not buy dogs from puppy mills and asked Dr. Allen not to visit the store.
Animal Charity then filed a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General's office against the Youngstown Docktor Pet Center for misrepresenting the source of its puppies. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Allen visited six puppy mills and a broker's facility in Missouri to verify the conditions under which some of his clients' dogs had been raised.
At Dr. Allen's instigation, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) stopped running a Docktor advertisement seeking veterinarians as franchisees. Dr. Allen then wrote a letter to JAVMA encouraging veterinarians to "unite against the ongoing atrocity of puppy mills." This letter prompted negative responses from veterinarians in puppy mill states, including one from a staff veterinarian for Honeydew, a Missouri brokerage facility owned by The Hunte Corporation.
After the "Dateline" story aired, Dr. Allen wrote another letter to JAVMA in which he again called on other veterinarians and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to take a stand against the pet shop industry. JAVMA printed the letter in the June 15, 2000 issue. Here is a reprint of his letter:
As the April 26, 2000 "NBC Dateline" program and the February 1999 issue of "Reader's Digest" pointed out, THERE IS NO READY SOURCE OF PUPPIES FOR THE PET STORE INDUSTRY OTHER THAN PUPPY MILLS. For over 15 years I have known this fact, and have counseled my clients to avoid pet stores when shopping for a puppy. Likewise, when I have a client with a new puppy present me with a Petland warranty, I explain to them that their newest family member has a shady origin, very likely a puppy mill.
Not all clients are happy with this news, especially those who feel they have been swindled. For this reason, the vast majority of veterinarians do not discuss the puppy mill-pet store connection. Some vets want their clients to have a "happy-happy" visit, and not leave their clinic with anything but good feelings. For the same reason, some veterinarians won't mention that a client's pet is overweight; don't forget, staff, we want a "happy-happy" visit experience!
As the most authoritative source of pet-related information available to the public, the veterinary profession should be championing the fight to eradicate puppy mills. It does not. Some vets may feel that stopping pet store sales of puppies would hurt their practice income. Those same vets probably don't push spaying and neutering for the same reason. They are wrong.
No state in this nation has a shortage of dogs. Millions of dogs are euthanized every year because there are too many of them. Puppy mills and pet stores are primarily to blame for this tragedy. And so are we. When someone buys a puppy in a pet store: 1. They are perpetuating the cycle of misery and suffering for the mother of that puppy, and all those to follow. 2. They have paid a tremendously inflated price and believe they have a "high-quality puppy with a pedigree and 'papers' from AKC." 3. Many believe they can recoup their purchase cost by breeding their dog and selling the puppies. 4. Because their puppy is such a fine example of the breed, and is registered, they SHOULD breed it.
Our part in this problem is that most vets do not discourage 3 and 4 or educate the client about 1 and 2. Failure to do so promotes the problem by default. But then, I'm sure some of my colleagues don't see this as a problem at all.
The AVMA won't take significant, constructive steps toward eliminating puppy mills because it abhors the thought of harming the practice of ANY member, i.e. those working for brokers or allied with pet stores. Instead it formulates a politically correct, carefully worded "position statement" (AVMA Policy Statements and Guidelines section I, paragraph F) which allows the AVMA to look like it has done something.
It is up to every conscientious, caring vet in this country to do something themselves every day in their practices. If you are an employed vet and the boss only wants "happy-happy," then it's time for you to start your own practice, preferably just up the street. The public will soon forget about Dateline and Reader's Digest. The majority probably didn't see or read it. The pet store industry knows this. They also believe in P.T. Barnum and the fact that there is a new generation ready to buy a puppy every year. All they have to do is keep quiet. This will all blow over, and everything will remain status quo. They've been through this all before and nothing changed.
Donald K. Allen, MS, DVM (ILL '80)
CAPS encourages veterinarians to follow Dr. Allen's lead. Please write a letter to the journal in support of his position.
Blood Chemistry Profile and CBC
At times when your companion animal is ill, and when they reach middle age (5-7 years old) a blood sample will be taken to aid with diagnosis and prognosis. The blood sample is analyzed by a medical laboratory to find levels of certain enzymes, electrolytes, and other factors. If these levels are above or below their normal ranges, they may indicate a disease process. A complete blood count (CBC) may also be run on part of the sample to check for anemia, infection, and abnormalities.
The blood chemistry profile, also called a "SMAC," provides information on kidney and liver function, sugar or glucose level (pancreas), and other factors that indicate metabolic or nutritional disorders. Early signs of kidney failure will warn of a need to reduce protein levels in the diet. High sugar values may confirm diabetes mellitus, and a need to start insulin therapy. Liver enzymes above the normal range may be due to inflammation, infection, or degeneration, and steps can be taken to arrest or reverse the problem. There are also several blood factors that indicate heart disease.
In addition to the SMAC and CBC, there are other specific tests that can be run on the blood sample. Amylase and lipase levels are also indicators of pancreas function and if inadequate can cause digestive disorders. A thyroid profile can reveal hypo- or hyperthyroidism, both of which are treatable. The presence of several infectious diseases can also be checked through a blood sample.
Many problems that develop in our pets can benefit from special prescription diets. Dr. Jack Mara, Huntington, NY, says, "There is no disease that does not depend on nutrition in its treatment." Hills Prescription DietsÂ® have helped many pets live longer lives by adjusting the nutrition to minimize disease processes. They are available only through veterinarians.
The initial expense of doing a blood profile may prevent much higher costs down the road, and can definitely help to discover and treat potential problems before they get out of hand. Your pet will benefit and feel better on a Prescription DietÂ® designed for its problem.
Children's Self-Esteem and Companion Animals
Children's positive self-esteem will affect just about every aspect of their lives. It will influence how they gets along with others, how they handle school and studying, how they deal with pressure and stress and everything they do as children, adolescents and adults. Bright children with poor self-esteem may do poorly in school, but average children who believe in themselves can excel. Children with high self-esteem are more willing to accept challenges in life and are more apt to try something new. They even tend to be healthier.
The Delta Society is an organization devoted to the study of the human-animal bond. This bonding we do can be with just about any species of animal that isn't trying to eat you, from a pet cricket to the bond that develops between a zookeeper and her elephant. But the majority of cases are, of course, between humans, dogs and cats.
When I was growing up I can't remember when we didn't have a companion animal in the house. I faintly remember Scratchy the cat who was banished for what we now call "indiscriminate elimination." Then there was a Schipperke that would drag its butt on the floor (now I know its anal glands were bothering it). When I was seven I had a hamster, and I brought him to school on the day we had our class picture taken. There I sit, holding him up against my chest. As I grew older, we always seemed to have a cat living with us, and practically every year she had kittens. Mittens was a polydactyl, a cat with extra toes, and she passed trait onto many of her offspring.
My mother was widowed when I was five-and-a-half, I had an older brother and a couple friends in the neighborhood. And I always had a companion animal. I would always talk to them, sometimes confide in them, like the time I was scolded by my mother for some infraction. I told Mittens I was going to run away and take her with me. She was very understanding, reassuring and agreeable. And very comforting. Did our companion animals help me as a child? In retrospect, I truly think they did.
The Delta Society cites a number of studies regarding children and companion animals:
- "Children exposed to humane [animal] education programs display enhanced empathy for humans compared with children not exposed to such programs. (Ascione, 1992)."
- "Positive self-esteem of children is enhanced by owning a Companion animal. (Bergensen, 1989)."
- "Children's cognitive development can be enhanced by owning a Companion animal. (Poresky, 1988)."
- "70% of families surveyed reported an increase in family happiness and fun subsequent to companion animal acquisition. (Cain, 1985)."
- "The presence of a dog during a child's physical examination decreased their stress. (Nadgengast, 1997, Baun, 1998)."
- "Children owning companion animals are more involved in activities such as sports, hobbies, clubs or chores. (Melson, 1990)."
- "Children exposed to companion animals during the first year of life have a lower frequency of allergic rhinitis and asthma. (Hesselmar, 1999)."
- "Children with autism have more prosocial behaviors [and] less autistic behaviors such as self-absorbtion. (Redefer, 1989)."
- "Children who own companion animals score significantly higher on empathy and prosocial orientation scales than non-owners. (Vidovic, 1999)."
Should every child have a companion animal? For the majority of cases, probably yes. Since companion animals can be used to teach children values and wanted behaviors, getting a companion animal is a great idea. It involves, however, a lifelong commitment to the care and welfare of that animal as a member of your family. For most companion animal owners, their dog, cat or bird is as much a family member as is a child, and their loss is taken just about as hard.
Dogs perhaps require the greatest commitment for companion animal ownership. They are very social creatures that demand a great deal of human interaction for THEM to be self-fulfilled. Cats require less time, and sometimes seem to be indifferent about your presence at all. We have two dogs and nine cats. Each of our companion animals has a unique personality. Our oldest cat would probably be happier if the other eight left home. Yule and Mina are always waiting to greet me when I open the bedroom door in the morning. Another hides when a stranger is in the house and one rejects human affection.
Selection of the best companion animal for your particular family situation should take time and considerable forethought and planning. Find out all you can about a particular breed or type of companion animal. Pocket companion animals (hamsters, mice, gerbils, rats, rabbits, Guinea pigs and ferrets) are caged animals that don't take up much space or financial investment, but still require daily care and attention. You might be surprised how engrossed and enamored some adult owners of pocket Companion animals become.
Very young children (under 3 to 4 years old) do not have the maturity to control their aggressive and angry impulses, and companion animals should always be monitored when interacting with them. I have treated companion animal injuries due to young children carrying them and falling on the companion animal or dropping it. If you wouldn't let your child play with a Hummel, don't let them play with an equally breakable living creature.
Children under 10 are rarely able to care for a large companion animal, like a dog or cat, entirely on their own, and you must assume that much of the care will fall to you. Of course, you must supervise and oversee the companion animal's care even if your child is old enough. They need to be reminded that animals, like people, need food, water and exercise. Parents serve as role models here, and children learn responsible companion animal ownership by observing their parents' behavior.
A child's good relationship with a companion animal can also help in developing non-verbal communication, compassion and empathy. Children often talk to their companion animals, as they do with their stuffed animals, and they become safe recipients of secrets and private thoughts. A companion animal may also provide lessons about life, including illnesses, accidents, death and bereavement. Perhaps most of all, they can teach respect for other living things. Likewise, rough or abusive interaction with a companion animal may be a sign of significant emotional problems requiring a comprehensive evaluation by one of you.
Then there is something I see almost every day when I handle a Companion animal. It's called "comfort contact." It's a proven phenomenon that when we stroke a dog or cat our blood pressure goes down, along with our heart rate. It's a calming effect. Well, guess what? The feeling is mutual. When I'm listening to a nervous dog's heart and I reach out and pet it while I'm listening, the heart rate decreases. It's the contact. Almost as good as a hug.
Companion Animals and Cancer
We humans tend to think we're pretty unique in the animal world, but, in fact, we are all very much alike when it comes to medical problems. Tumors and cancer are examples of conditions that affect all animals, from fish to elephants to birds.
In general, we all have potential cancer cells develop in our bodies every day. They might be mutants of normal cell division that could go wild and overproduce more cells, thereby creating a mass. Our immune systems, however, identify these abnormal cells and destroy them, or the cells naturally die off. Some animals' immune systems may be genetically inadequate from birth, and those animals tend to have abnormal cells slip through and develop into tumors. Likewise, as we get older our immune systems are not as strong or efficient as when we were young, and again some potential tumor cells slip through our body's screening process. Perhaps this is why lumps and bumps are more common as we get older.
Some breeds of dog seem to be more prone to tumors than others. Boxers have a reputation for being "tumor factories," and white boxers lead their group. Labradors tend to get lipomas, but then Labradors also tend to be overweight, and I seldom see lipomas on lean dogs.
If you've had a companion animal for a long time, say 10 years or more, you may have noticed lumps develop, or moles or warts as the dog or cat gets up in years. Often these lumps are nothing to worry about unless they continue to grow or they are bothering the pet. Lipomas are a case in point. They are fat cell tumors; essentially a fat cell that has multiplied out of control. They can usually be felt under the skin, are round or oval, feel soft and somewhat moveable. The most common site they develop is on the side of the chest behind the front legs, but they can pop up anywhere on the body. People get lipomas, too. Lipomas are benign and need only be removed if they are getting too big (or for cosmetic appearances).
Nearly every type of cancer that people develop can also develop in our companion animals. The methods for controlling or eliminating these tumors are essentially the same for dogs and cats as it is for people. We use surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, nutrition, and everything else that works in people. There are veterinary oncologists that specialize in the latest methods for dealing with cancers. Specialty practices and veterinary schools take patients on a referral basis for diagnosis and treatment. Many veterinarians do not routinely carry the chemotherapy drugs because they are very expensive, they expire quickly, and are used infrequently.
Prognosis for certain types of cancer therapy may vary with the individual animal. Older animals may not be strong enough or have competent immune systems to battle the tumor. Other complicating factors, such as liver or kidney disease, may preclude them from treatment. In many cases, surgery is the first step if just one site is involved. If there are many tumors, both surgery and chemotherapy may be the answer. Then there are some cases in which nothing will slow or stop the progress of the cancer, as with osteosarcoma, or bone cancer.
As veterinarians, we've known for a long time that estrogen is connected with breast cancer. Dogs and cats that are spayed (ovariohysterectomy) before their first heat have a zero incidence of breast cancer later in life. Each year that a female animal goes unspayed increases the likelihood that lumps will develop. Dogs and cats have five pairs of mammary glands, so right away they are five times as likely as humans to develop problems. An unspayed dog is about 70% likely to develop masses in the mammary tissue when they get to be 7 plus years old. Breast cancer in our pets can be prevented through early spaying. Likewise for the males, early neutering prevents testicular cancer.
Cats can acquire all sorts of tumors and cancer, too. Injection-site sarcomas are something we see on rare occasion, and steps have already been taken by vaccine companies to avoid any future connections with injections. They usually occur over the shoulder area, where we commonly give distemper shots, and first appear as a lump that you feel, but often can't see. Surgical removal early on may prevent spread, but they commonly return in the same area. A very small percentage of cats have been affected (a fraction of one percent), but that's still too many if we can prevent it.
As with humans, early diagnosis is important, and if you detect a lump or mass on your dog or cat, consult your veterinarian. It may turn out to be only a sebaceous cyst, but it could be something more serious.