Cancer Treatment Options for Pets

With so many advancements in veterinary medicine, many of our furry family members are living much longer lives. As our pet population ages, we are starting to see more cases of cancer; it is estimated that over 50% of dogs over the age of 10 years old will develop some form of cancer. Most people have some sort of a personal relationship with cancer – we have all been touched by the disease in some form whether it is personally or through a family member or friend. Hearing that your pet has cancer can be very difficult but there are many treatment (Cat Surgery & Dog Surgery) options out there.

Depending on what type of cancer a pet has, your veterinarian will want to do a work up which can include biopsy, mass removal, bloodwork, x-rays and abdominal ultrasound to check for the scope of the disease and to see if other organs are affected. Some cancers can be curative with surgical removal while others may need adjunct therapy such as chemotherapy or radiation.

Chemotherapy in dogs and cats is a much different treatment than the one that occurs in people. Chemotherapy is used to provide systemic control of cancers with the main goal being to improve quality of life and prolong survival time; many pets experience none or few side effects to the chemotherapy treatment. Repeat bloodwork is often performed to ensure that the medication is safe to give to the affected pet. At the same time they are often prescribed anti-nausea, anti-diarrhea and pain control medications to help minimize the side effects and make them as comfortable as possible. Some breeds such as poodles may experience some temporary hair loss. Chemotherapy can help provide extended or complete remission of many types of cancer.

Radiation therapy is used primarily to provide tumor control in a localized area. It is often used in conjunction with surgery and chemotherapy. If a tumor is not completely removed with surgery, or if the tumor is located in an area that is not ideal for surgical removal then radiation therapy can be used. It often involves treatments given over the course of 4-7 weeks and the animal is under a general anesthetic during each treatment.

If your pet has been diagnosed with a form of cancer, please talk to your veterinarian about available treatment options. Depending on the type and prognosis, therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy can help provide remission for your pet.

Written by: Dr Sarah Wells