Sunday, October 31, 2010

Healthier Pet Owners = Healthier Pets, New Evidence Reveals Exercise Alone Can Improve Cancer Prognosis and Quality of Life

Healthier Pet Owners = Healthier Pets, New Evidence Reveals Exercise Alone Can Improve Cancer Prognosis and Quality of Life

The leading cause of death in cats and dogs today is cancer, and nearly a quarter of all pets will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. Such statistics can be terrifying to pet owners. Many do what they can to prevent cancer, and, if their pet is diagnosed, seek to find ways to improve their beloved pet’s medical care and quality of life. Borrowing from human cancer patient studies, recent research shows that a healthy lifestyle involving plenty of exercise can greatly improve a cancer patient’s prognosis and overall quality of life. The same is true for our pets.

Langhorne, PA (Vocus) June 23, 2009

The leading cause of death in cats and dogs today is cancer, and nearly a quarter of all pets will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. Such statistics can be terrifying to pet owners. Many do what they can to prevent cancer, and, if their pet is diagnosed, seek to find ways to improve their beloved pet’s medical care and quality of life. Borrowing from human cancer patient studies, recent research shows that a healthy lifestyle involving plenty of exercise can greatly improve a cancer patient’s prognosis and overall quality of life. The same is true for our pets.

According to veterinary oncologist Dr. Beth Overley, VMD, DACVIM of the Center for Animal Referral and Emergency Services (CARES), in Langhorne “preserving a pet’s quality of life is wholly important. It’s our goal to provide our clients with sound advice on how to make their pet’s life better. Weight management and exercise top our recommendations list.” Dr. Overley also states that “while pet owners should know there is no alternative or natural approach capable of curing cancer by itself, there are benefits to an active and healthy lifestyle combined with the very best conventional medicine has to offer. Also, a healthy lifestyle can be transferred from pet to owner and owner to pet, which improves everyone’s overall quality of life.”

To illustrate the power of using exercise as a supplement to cancer treatments, consider the Health, Eating, Activity and Lifestyle (HEAL) study of 933 human breast cancer patients. HEAL revealed that moderate-intensity physical activity reduced the risk for death by 67% in women who remained active 2 years after diagnosis (as released by Yale School of Medicine and posted by Medscape Medical News, April, 2009).

“Treating cancer has an element of uncertainty and unpredictability,” explains Dr. Overley. “Two patients with the same type of cancer may experience completely different responses to treatment and different rates of tumor progression. This is attributable to many factors, some we cannot control, but studies like HEAL indicate that there are lifestyle factors, like exercise and nutrition, which can be controlled and can make a real difference.”

How one family are fighting their pet’s cancer with chemo, exercise and a healthy diet:

Rob and Gina Aspenleider, of the Philadelphia area, consider their dog Natasha, a young German Shepherd/Sheltie mix, their child. When their regular veterinarian confirmed the enlarged lymph nodes and red areas they’d noticed forming on Natasha’s belly were actually manifestations of lymphoma (a very common form of cancer in cats and dogs), they feared the absolute worst. “It was a horrific roller coaster of emotions. We braced for losing her,” recalled Gina and Rob. “Our general vet referred Natasha to Dr. Overley at CARES whose first words were ‘I’ve seen this before.

We can treat Natasha.’ At that moment, we felt hope. Natasha began chemotherapy treatments right away, but we wanted to do more at home. We started by changing her diet to homemade foods, vitamins and, most importantly, made sure she got as much exercise as she could. During the beginning, the chemo made her tired, so we’d stop and rest. We continued exercising and within weeks of treatment, when most pets might be sick and weak, she wanted to get out and play and even run! Six months after beginning chemotherapy, Dr. Overley shared the most remarkable news, Natasha was in remission! A big part of her success was the competence of Dr. Overley.” Rob and Gina have continued her healthy regimen of running her at least three times a week for at least 2 miles. Natasha is now over one year out from diagnosis and start of treatment. She’s still running and enjoying a great quality of life.

Ten Common Signs of Cancer in Small Animals
1. Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
2. Sores that do not heal
3. Weight loss
4. Loss of appetite
5. Bleeding or discharge
6. Offensive odor, often from the mouth
7. Difficulty eating or swallowing
8. Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
9. Persistent lameness or stiffness
10. Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating
(Source: American Veterinary Medical Association)

Above all, Dr. Overley recommends that pet owners are vigilant and visit their veterinarians for regularly scheduled checkups and at the first sign of anything abnormal. “We work closely with referring veterinarians and depend upon them to advise owners when and how to refer their pet to us. If there is a lump or bump found, often it’s a great idea for the referring veterinarian to take a needle aspirate and evaluate some of the cells to make sure it’s benign. The earlier a pet is diagnosed, staged, and treated, the greater the chance of a positive outcome for the patient,” says Dr. Overley.

About Dr. Beth Overley:
Dr. Overley is a board certified veterinary oncologist, lecturer and author. She earned undergraduate degrees at both Rice University (BA) and Mercy College (BS in pre-veterinary studies and veterinary technology). She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine with her VMD in 2000 and performed her internship and residency training there. She is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (DACVIM) and formerly taught on staff at the University of Pennsylvania before joining her colleagues at CARES. 

MEDIA OPPORTUNITIES: The media is invited to interview Dr. Beth Overley, VMD, DACVIM, as well as Rob and Gina (and Natasha) Aspenleider. Video and photo opportunities of patients undergoing exams and treatments are also possible. Please contact Julie Robbins (813) 412-3342 or Julie(at)FetchingCommunications. com.

About CARES:
CARES is a full service specialty referral, emergency and critical care veterinary hospital. Specialty cases are seen by referral from the primary care veterinarian. Specialty services include: Cardiology, Clinical Pathology, Internal Medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Radiology, Surgery and Client Support. The hospital also offers 24 hour emergency care. CARES has been voted 2008 Neighbors’ Choice Award Winner for Best Veterinarian/Animal Hospital in Bucks County. For more information, visit www. vetcares. com

###