Table of Contents
- Should I Treat My Dog for Cancer?
- My Dog Has Cancer: What Should I Do?
- Cancer Treatment for Dogs
- Frequently Asked Questions on Whether Should I Treat My Dog for Cancer
- Should I Treat My Dog for Cancer – Summary
“Should I treat my dog for cancer?”
This is probably the first question that popped to your mind upon learning that your precious furball got the Big C.
First of all, I'm sorry to hear that. Second, don't lose hope!
Nowadays, there are many options for dog cancer treatment. And the good news is there's a high rate of dog cancer survival if treated the soonest time possible.
Read through this article to know what to do if your dog is diagnosed with cancer.
Should I Treat My Dog for Cancer?
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, canine cancer is responsible for almost half of the deaths of dogs in the country that are more than 10 years old.
The Animal Cancer Foundation also estimated that 6 million dogs are getting diagnosed with cancer yearly.
So you're probably not the only one wondering whether you should treat your dog for cancer.
Luckily, canine cancer treatment has progressed dramatically over the past 20 years. There are now significant advancements in the treatment process of cancer for dogs and the facilities have almost doubled in number!
There are types of cancers in dogs that are very much treatable, but there are some that can be quite aggressive. But don't worry because there are still good treatment options for aggressive ones.
Common Types of Dog Cancer
Some of the most common types of cancer that are diagnosed in dogs are:
- Mast cell tumor (tumor of the immune cells responsible for allergies)
- Melanoma (skin cancer)
- Lymphoma (mostly appears as swollen glands; could also affect lymph nodes inside the body)
- Osteosarcoma (primary bone cancer)
- Hemangiosarcoma (tumor of the cells that line the blood vessels)
- Soft-tissue sarcomas (cancer that starts in soft tissues of the body)
- Brain Tumor
- Bladder Cancer
- Mammary Carcinoma (cancer in the breast)
- Malignant Histiocytosis (abnormal accumulation of a type of white blood cell called histiocyte)
- Squamous Cell Carcinomas (another type of skin cancer)
- Mouth and Nose Cancer
- Testicular Cancer
Getting diagnosed with any of these cancers doesn't mean the death sentence for your dog. Look at it as just the first step towards you and your dog's possible success story.
My Dog Has Cancer: What Should I Do?
To answer the question, “Should I treat my dog for cancer?” I've listed down a step-by-step guide below to help you get started.
First of all, read as much as you can about your dog's condition. There are many available sources online that can give you a general idea of what to expect.
Familiarize yourself with the terminologies so you'd also know the right questions to raise. But this doesn't mean you gotta jump to conclusions or even try to treat your dog at home.
Also, start asking around for pet owners who have the same experience as you and your dogs.
You may get an idea or two on what you should do. Plus, those survival stories can be inspiring and pretty much fuel your desire to fight for your dog.
2. Get a Second Opinion
Just like in medicine for humans, you always have the option to look for a second opinion to make sure that the initial diagnosis of your dog is correct.
Having an accurate diagnosis means a more accurate prognosis which is important in deciding the best course of action to take for your dog.
Apart from your trusted vet, it's also best to look for a board-certified veterinary oncologist at this point. They will be your and your dog's teammates on this journey.
3. Ask the Right Questions
Your research and that second opinion should have helped in knowing what questions to ask the veterinary oncologist.
Asking the right questions will help you understand the current situation better and the different treatment options for your dog.
Below are some of the questions you would want to ask:
- Has the cancer spread already?
- Which treatments can be done to address the cancer?
- What can we expect from each treatment? What is the prognosis?
- Are there side effects to each treatment? Will they gravely affect my pet’s quality of life?
- How long will this treatment plan take?
- How long will my dog live if we decide to forego any treatment? What are the palliative care options?
- What are my pet's chances of survival?
- Will this treatment totally cure my pet's cancer?
- If my pet's cancer goes into remission, what are the chances it will reoccur?
- What are the best and the worst things that could happen in the course of this treatment plan?
- What is the cost of each treatment?
- How many visits back to the veterinarian are needed?
- What can I do as an additional homecare plan for my dog?
There are hard questions to ask. But these questions are the ones you should know more about.
Asking them will help not only in deciding for your dog but also in preparing your physical, mental, and emotional well-being throughout the process that you will decide on taking.
Remember that it's good to hope for the best, but better to prepare for the worst.
4. Financial Impact
Apart from being energy and time-consuming, there's no doubt that treating cancer can be quite costly.
Determining the actual cost depends on the treatment, your location, and your pet. When you consult, it's best to ask this directly to your provider to get a more accurate estimate.
Later on, we'll give you a general idea of how much canine cancer treatment can cost you.
But at the onset of the diagnosis, have a sit-down talk with your family. Discuss whether your income can cover the treatment expense without affecting much of your necessities as a whole.
If your dog has pet insurance, well and good. They may cover some expenses up to a certain extent. If no insurance is available, you can still look for other options!
There are organizations that offer healthcare grants and financial assistance for pets. Some animal hospitals even have charitable funds set up.
You can also check if there are ongoing clinical trials for canine cancer near your area.
Lastly, you can also check if your provider is enrolled in credit options for veterinary care. However, I strongly suggest considering this as your last option because you may incur a long-term credit that will give more problems than solutions later on.
5. Think About Your Pet
If this whole process is getting stressful for you, think about what your pet might be feeling!
The vet oncologist may be the expert, but you know your pet the best.
What makes its life worth living? Is it your daily zoomies session? Your weekly visits to the park?
Consider if the treatment will affect your pet's quality of life. Undergoing different medications may prevent them from doing their usual routines.
Ask your vet about palliative care options. He or she can offer symptom management to alleviate your dog's pain and suffering.
But remember that giving palliative care is an attempt to maintain your pet's quality of life without necessarily focusing on prolonging its quantity of life.
This is another option that might be quite difficult for you, but still important for you to think about.
Cancer Treatment for Dogs
Depending on your dog's cancer, there are several treatment options your vet oncologist may talk to you about.
One treatment could be enough, but in most cases, combination therapy will be required.
Different Treatments for Canine Cancer
Chemotherapy is the most common treatment procedure to fight off cancer cells for both humans and dogs. It is designed to kill the cells or prevent the bad cells from multiplying.
Depending on your provider, your dog may receive a pill or an injection on a weekly basis.
Although this is a case-to-case basis, chemo can help your dog survive for another 6 to 12 months. With continuous treatment, it can go into remission for 8 to 9 months.
Radiation therapy can target a specific location in the body where the cancer cells are concentrated.
Because of this, it may require anesthesia to ensure the accuracy and positioning of the treatment.
It is most effective with tumors that have rapidly dividing cells. Not all tumors are responsive to radiation.
Depending on how your dog's body reacts to this treatment, radiation therapy can definitely help add up to the survival and remission of your fur baby.
Diagnosing the type of cancer may already require surgery—usually a biopsy. But treating cancer can also be possible via surgical operation, especially in tumor removal.
There are cases, however, the surgery can only help to make the chemotherapy or radiation therapy more effective.
This is the case for de-bulking surgery a.k.a. marginal resection, where the tumor is reduced to a manageable size which will make the efficacy of other modalities higher.
Immunotherapy for dog cancer treatment in dogs is also getting more common these days.
Unlike the others, it does not target cancer itself. Instead, your dog's own immune system is used to fight off cancer cells.
However, it's still a developing therapy. More studies are still being conducted to ultimately understand how a dog's immune system works.
For now, immunotherapy is said to work best in smaller “cancer loads.”
Holistic or Herbal Therapy
Some vet oncologists can also give you another option that has a more natural approach to managing cancer.
Some natural ingredients that are said to have a positive effect on cancer are cannabis oil, hemp seed, and turmeric, among others.
However, don't try to treat your dog at home by yourself just with what you read online!
Consult with your own provider to check if he can recommend this to your dog's current situation.
One of the questions we all dread to know—how much will the treatment cost?
As you may know, the answer to this question differs on a case-to-case basis.
But to give you a general idea, initial consultation fees with a vet oncologist can range from $125 to $250, while diagnostic tests can range from $200-$1000. Multiply these by two if you choose to go for a second opinion.
The chemotherapy can range from $150 to $500 per dose, while radiation therapy can go from $1000 for palliative care to $6000 with curative intent.
Surgeries, on the other hand, depend on the size of the tumor and its location. This can go from $1000 for a simple surgery up to $15,000 for complicated ones.
Cancer Treatment Side Effect
Thankfully, animals do tolerate these therapies way better than humans.
In fact, not all dogs who undergo treatments experience side effects, but if they do, you may observe some vomiting or diarrhea. They will also have reduced appetite and energy.
Their immune system is also affected, so they can be susceptible to other diseases.
These are only the common side effects; it still depends on how your dog's body will react to the treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions on Whether Should I Treat My Dog for Cancer
Should I treat my old dog for cancer?
A dog's age should not be the main factor in deciding whether it should get cancer treatment or not.
Thinking about your dog's quality of life should be the topmost consideration you think of.
Will the treatment allow your dog to enjoy its favorite activities for a longer time, or will the treatment only deny him of this?
Your dog may be old, but remember that it spent most of its life as your furry, loyal family member.
Is it worth giving a dog chemo?
Chemotherapy is not only the most common cancer treatment but it's also proven to be one of the most effective, especially when done in combination therapy.
Although cancer can only go into remission and is not totally curable, chemo will still relieve your dog's symptoms and help you both enjoy your time together.
Can I do anything for my dog with cancer?
Of course! Apart from being proactive in your dog's cancer treatment, you can help it by still doing your normal routine and usual activities together (as long as your dog's physical well-being allows him!)
Our dogs love routines, especially the ones they get used to do with their owners. They need this to help them keep active and happy, especially if they have to visit the vet on a weekly basis!
Should I Treat My Dog for Cancer – Summary
The question “Should I treat my dog with cancer” may be one of the most-conflicting questions you'll ever have to ask yourself.
Knowing that there are different dog cancer treatments available and the dog's cancer survival may be enough for you to decide what to do upon receiving the news that your dog has the Big C.
Whatever you decide on, know that what's important for your dog is to always spend quality time with you no matter what.