Cancer is considered the most devastating disease of our time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t only affect humans. Our pets are just as likely to suffer from cancer as we are. In fact, cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs, with an estimated 1 in 3 domestic canines developing cancer during their lifetime, which are very similar statistics to human incidences of cancer. Felines are less likely to develop cancer than dogs, but the condition can affect any animal. The most common types of cancer in animals include skin, breast, testicular, bone, head and neck, lymphoma and abdominal. The prognosis for the treatment and recovery of your pet will very much depend on how quickly cancer has been identified and its location.
Discovering that your pet has cancer is without doubt one of the scariest things that can happen to you as a responsible and caring owner. However, as you are responsible for your pet’s health, you will have some important decisions to make regarding their care. You need to keep a cool head and carefully plan your pet’s next steps. We know just how overwhelming this can be, and so to help you, we have put together this handy guide to just what you need to do when your pet gets cancer.
It is easy to assume the worst when the c-word is mentioned. However, cancer in pets is quite common, with around six million cats and six million dogs being diagnosed with the condition each year. Veterinary medicine has also evolved a great deal during the last few decades, and many cancers in pets are completely curable. For those that aren’t, there are things that can be done to ensure that your pet has the best possible quality of life for as long as possible.
One of the first things that you should arrange to do is to speak to a cancer specialist and arrange for your pet to be seen by them. Board-certified veterinary oncologists are more likely to have the latest information about cancer treatments and with years of training and experience behind them, they will be able to make the best recommendations as to which treatments will benefit your pet. Some cancer specialists will adopt your pet’s entire care, while others are happy to work with your veterinarian to find the most suitable options for your beloved animal.
There are lots of different cancers that can affect our pets, and each behaves in a slightly different way. You should also take into consideration whether your pets’ cancer has spread (metastasized) or remained in its original location. By finding out more about your pet’s cancer you can be better prepared for the options that lay in front of you and the decisions that you will have to make. This will enable you to better support your pet.
There is a range of different options that can be used to treat cancer in pets. Not every treatment will necessarily be right for your pet, and your veterinary oncologist will be able to advise you which treatments may be viable and what they will mean for your pet. Some of the options that you may have could include:
- A combination of the above treatments
In some instances where cancer cannot be cured, treatment may still be recommended, but provided with the intention of prolonging your pet’s quality of life for as long as possible.
You may potentially be offered the opportunity to enroll your pet in a clinical trial. The purpose of this is to learn more about a specific type of treatment and the way that animals may respond to it. Although there is no guarantee that clinical trials will be successful, they are often considered by owners whose pets have not responded to other treatments. This is something that you will have to think about carefully, as all cancer treatments, regardless of whether they are well established or not, have side effects for your pet.
Although you may feel isolated at first, as we know, cancer in pets is very common and there will be plenty of people out there who will understand how you are feeling and will be happy to offer you support. Have a look online for support groups or ask your vet or veterinary oncologist to signpost you to some!
Cancer can certainly have a range of negative effects on your pet’s quality of life. Most cancer treatments for animals focus primarily on alleviating pain and other symptoms, but these aren’t the only things that matter. When your pet can no longer enjoy the things that they used to – such as walks in the woods, eating meals or even the affection that you provide – it is just as important to consider their quality of life. When this is seriously impacted, one of the hardest but arguably most selfless things that you can do is to let your pet be put to sleep. This is obviously the last resort, but something that owners do need to potentially be prepared for.
We understand the devastation that a cancer diagnosis can cause and work with pets and their owners to do everything possible to ensure that animals with this condition enjoy a great quality of life for as long as possible. To talk to our compassionate and dedicated team, please call our offices.