Cancer: a scary word that touches almost everyone in a deeply personal way. Unfortunately, not only is cancer a common disease in people, but in our pet family members as well. In fact, over 50% of dogs and cats die due to cancer-related illness, making it the most common cause of death in pets over 10 years of age.
The good news is that there are many treatments available for pets diagnosed with cancer, and new treatments are being researched and developed each year. The type of treatment that is recommended will depend on the type and location of a pet’s cancer, whether the cancer has already spread, and will depend on how the treatment will affect the pet. The cancer treatments that are available in veterinary medicine include:
1) Surgery to remove the tumor
2) Radiation therapy
3) Chemotherapy (by mouth, by injection)
4) Cancer vaccines
5) Supportive therapy such as bisphosphonates, supplements, and nutrition
While many of the treatments used for treating cancer in people are also used to treat veterinary patients, the side effects are not the same. Fortunately, dogs and cats are less likely to get sick from cancer treatment, and the side effects are not as severe as those experienced by people. Our goal with cancer treatment is always maintaining the best quality of life for your pet, so if your pet reacts to the treatment, adjustments are made to try to prevent the side effects from occurring again. Fortunately, cats and most dogs do not lose their hair like people often do and most continue to do their favorite things during treatment (swimming, chasing squirrels, playing with toys, -insert favorite activity here-).
While not all cancers can be cured in veterinary patients, many can be controlled while maintaining a good quality of life for your pet. Cancer in animals is often considered a death sentence, when in fact a pet diagnosed with cancer may be cured of the disease or live many months to years with appropriate treatment.
Many people don’t realize that there are veterinary specialists who specialize in cancer care known as veterinary oncologists. Dr. Beck is the oncologist here at UVH and she wants to provide the best possible experience for both pets and pet parents who are dealing with this difficult diagnosis. She also holds certifications in Chinese Herbal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative care, so she can provide many options for you and your pet, even if you choose not to pursue conventional treatment.
If you have questions about a cancer diagnosis or suspect that your pet may have cancer, give us a call at 318-797-5522.