A cancer diagnosis in an animal is just as devastating as hearing the news from a fellow human. As a compassionate pet owner, being told that your pet has cancer can be overwhelming, but time is of the essence when it comes to treatment. Studies have shown that the sooner cancer is diagnosed, and treatment commenced, the better the outcome could be for your furbaby. In many instances, the right treatment choice makes the difference between life and death.
As your pet’s owner, it is completely your choice when it comes to selecting a cancer treatment for your beloved creature. There are a number of options available, although not all may be suitable for your pet. Your veterinary oncology team will be able to make a recommendation as to the best course of action, but it is still essential that you are aware of what the different treatments will mean for your furbaby.
To help you make an informed decision about your pet’s care, here’s what you need to know about cancer treatments for pets.
Chemotherapy is the most well-known cancer treatment and involves the use of either orally swallowed or injectable medication designed to kill the cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs work by identifying and attacking any cells that are rapidly dividing and reproducing, which are two identifiers of cancer cells. Animals tend to deal better with chemotherapy than humans do, but they still experience a range of side effects which include hair loss, gastrointestinal problems, bone marrow suppression which causes poor immunity, nausea, and loss of appetite.
Chemotherapy works very well against some types of cancer, but others do not respond to the treatment at all. Even if chemotherapy can’t necessarily cure your pet’s cancer, it can be used to manage the condition so that it doesn’t worsen.
This treatment is a special kind of therapy that uses your pet’s own immune system to fight against the cancer cells. It has been found to be very successful in humans and so has been extended to veterinary use too. It can be used with other treatments or by itself. There are primarily two types of immunotherapy, these are monoclonal antibodies and cancer vaccines. Immunotherapy is well known for being a safe, tolerable option for animals with cancer.
Small molecule therapy isn’t a particularly well-known cancer treatment, but it has shown that it can potentially be effective at destroying cancer cells. It involves the use of specific drugs that are able to enter cells easily because they have a low molecular weight, hence the term ‘small molecule therapy’. Once inside, the drugs can affect other molecules, such as proteins, where they could potentially cause cancer cells to die.
The following treatments are not something that we can provide in-house, but if our oncologist can recommend them, we will coordinate a referral for your pet to an appropriate specialist in the surrounding area.
Radiation therapy is a very well-known type of cancer treatment and uses high-energy light beams of light to target specific areas of your pet’s body where there are cancer cells. This helps to prevent the effect of the radiation on your pet’s body. Like chemotherapy, radiotherapy is carried out in several different sessions, during which time the cancer cells will hopefully shrink and eventually disappear altogether. Side effects from radiation therapy include hair loss, some discomfort, nausea, sore skin, and discomfort.
Palliative radiation therapy refers to the use of radiation to shrink the existing cancer cells, slow the growth of cancer and/or control the symptoms it is causing. It is not intended to treat cancer altogether and is recommended for pets who cannot be treated but can be made more comfortable and with a better quality of life. Palliative radiation therapy is usually recommended for pets with advanced cancer, or where cancer has metastasized to another part of her body and where treatment to eliminate cancer entirely is likely to be unsuccessful.
There are various options when it comes to surgery to remove or treat cancer in pets. In an ideal world, all veterinary cancer surgery would be curative-intent. This is because it is designed to remove all of the tumors, and it may be combined with chemotherapy or radiotherapy to place your pet into remission. However, not all cases of cancer can be removed fully surgically. Palliative surgical cancer removal is performed with the intention of alleviating the symptoms that your pet is experiencing – such as pain, infection and more. In doing so, it is possible to make your pet’s remaining time as comfortable and relaxed as possible.
If you would like more advice on choosing a cancer treatment for your pet, our knowledgeable and experienced team would be delighted to help. Contact Animal Cancer Care Specialists in Westford, MA today to schedule an appointment to schedule a consultation for your furry friend.