The actress, who is a dog mom to a miniature Schnauzer/Shih Tzu mix named Ewok, spoke to PEOPLE about teaming with Petco on a new campaign that spreads awareness about pet cancer detection
Jamie Chung is on a mission to inform fellow pet owners of the importance of prioritizing the health of their furry loved ones.
For Pet Cancer Awareness Month, the Lovecraft Country star, 38, has teamed with Petco on the Together Strong campaign, which highlights cancer treatment and detection options for pets and how preventative check-ups can catch pet cancer early. As part of the campaign, Petco is offering pet owners a free first vet exam in May.
"We just want to help get the word out that cancer is very common in dogs and cats," Chung, who is a dog mom to a miniature Schnauzer/Shih Tzu mix named Ewok, tells PEOPLE. "It's one in three dogs, and one in five cats get cancer in their lifetime. Sadly, the Obamas lost their pet to cancer, and I can name 10 people within this last year that lost their furry loved one to cancer."
"It's really important that you do routine checkups," the actress adds. "And if your dogs are 8 or older, you should probably get ahead of the game and test for cancer."
Chung, who shares Ewok with husband Bryan Greenberg, says she never shies away from making sure that her furry companion is always at his best health.
"I'm like a helicopter dog mom," she tells PEOPLE. "Petco's paid annual plan, Vital Care, provides pet parents with a convenient, affordable way to meet their pets' routine wellness needs. The program offers benefits for a range of services including grooming, routine vet exams, monthly Pals Rewards and a welcome gift."
Along with considering preventative trips to the veterinarian, the Real World alum also implores other pet owners to "really keep an eye on" their animals.
"Search for any abnormal growth, any bumps, just like humans," she suggests. "Is there a changing mood or a change in diet? Or bowel movements. Those are all red flags, and you should get your dog checked immediately. I just think it requires a little bit of research because by the time you find out that your dog has cancer, it's usually too late and it's very costly. It's heartbreaking for the owner and the dog. It's tough on everyone."
Chung's devotion to cancer awareness, both for pets and humans, comes from a personal connection to the devastating disease.
"My mom is a cancer survivor, and I was off in college when she had breast cancer," Chung says of her mother, a first-generation Korean immigrant.
The actress says her mom's cancer battle was "tough" to discuss for their family due to their culture, adding that she was informed of her mother's diagnosis "pretty late in the game" due to being in college at the University of California Riverside at the time.
However, Chung ultimately felt at ease about the situation, knowing her mother had a close support system surrounding her. "My dad was there with her, and my sister was nearby, and she had the two kids that she loved most, our dogs," Chung tells PEOPLE.
Now over a decade after her diagnosis, Chung's mother is cancer-free and enjoying a healthy life.
"She's been in remission for a really long time," says Chung. "She's doing great."