Cancer is a major cause of death in domestic animals. Furthermore, many forms of pet neoplasm resemble that of their human counterparts in biologic behaviour, pathologic expression, and recognised risk factors.
In April 2005, a pilot project was activated so as to establish a dog and cat tumour registry living in the Venice and Vicenza provinces (Veneto Region, north-eastern Italy), with the aim of estimating the incidence of spontaneous tumours.
Through a telephone survey, the estimates of canine and feline populations of the catchment area turned out to be of 296,318 (CI +/- 30,201) and 214,683 (CI +/- 21,755) subjects, respectively. During the first three years, overall 2,509 canine and 494 feline cases of neoplasia were diagnosed. In dogs, the estimated annual incidence rate (IR) per 100,000 dogs for all tumours was 282 in all the catchment area, whereas in cats the IR was much lower (IR = 77). Malignant and benign tumours were equally distributed in male and female dogs, whereas cats had a 4.6-fold higher incidence of malignant tumours than benign. In both dogs and cats, purebreds had an almost 2-fold higher incidence of malignant tumours than mixed breeds. Tumour incidence increased with age in both dog and cat populations.
This study has provided estimates of incidence of spontaneous neoplasm in companion animals. Further attempts will be made to increase the accuracy in the population size assessment and to ascertain the real gap with the official regional canine demographic registry. Veterinary practitioners may also benefit from the tumour registry insofar they may obtain data for specific breeds, age groups or geographical areas.