Scotties are known for many things: they’re fun, playful, regal and just a little bit goofy. My clients who have them as family members are intensely loyal and I find that their loyalty is typically reciprocated in kind. Because of this intense bond, my Scottie owners frequently want to know what problems they should be watching for as they understand that finding diseases early always allows for the best chance at management or cure.
When I think of Scotties and diseases they’re likely to get, several things come to mind but for this discussion I’d like to focus on neoplastic diseases, commonly known as cancer. Scotties represent one of the top five breeds where death is most often attributed to cancer.
Have you known anyone who had a Scottie die from cancer or cancer-related illness? If you’ve known Scottie owners for a while I’m sure the answer is “yes.” The most famous Scottie that lost a battle to cancer was former President Bush’s pal Barney; he lost his battle to lymphoma in 2013 at the age of 12. Bush was devastated at his loss, releasing a heartfelt public statement and an oil painting he had done of his beloved pet.
So let’s think about lymphoma (technically lymphosarcoma, or LSA), a malignancy of the lymphatic system and lymph nodes in the body. Lymphoma is the most common malignant cancer in all breeds of dogs and, unfortunately, Scotties are high on the list of the most commonly affected breeds. As the most common form does invade the external lymph nodes, it is important to know where these nodes are and how to tell if they’re enlarged. Speak with your veterinarian and have him/her show you where your dog’s nodes are located so that they can be monitored closely. With this disease, time really is of the essence as it can proceed to death very quickly. Fortunately it is quite responsive to chemotherapy—especially if started early! Those physical exams are very important; I have even discovered a Scottie with lymphoma that was brought in as “perfectly healthy” for vaccinations. I most certainly did not vaccinate him but quickly recognized the physical exam findings and performed a quick needle biopsy of a lymph node to confirm my suspicions. This is one of many reasons it is very important to have a comprehensive physical exam prior to vaccinations or any routine care, even if a physical exam just a few weeks ago was normal; it can literally save your pet’s life!
Another common cancer in Scotties is transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), a malignancy that grows in the urinary bladder. In fact, Scotties are the #1 breed for this cancer. For this reason, it is recommended to have your Scottie’s urinary tract checked every 6-12 months. There are studies that show that your Scottie’s chances of developing this malignant bladder cancer increase if your yard is treated with herbicides, especially phenoxy herbicides such as 2,4-D, so please avoid using these products on your yard and strictly minimize your dog’s access to the lawn if they are used.
Lastly, malignant skin cancer such as melanoma is also common in this breed. Have any new growths, lumps, bumps or abnormalities checked by your veterinarian. Again, the sooner something is examined, the better. As always, speak frankly with your veterinarian and ask questions if you don’t understand something completely. Rememberwe are a team, working together to keep your favorite bearded friend alive and happy for as long as possible!
Dr. Susan Brashear
Main Street Veterinary Hospital
Flower Mound, TX 75028