Immunotherapy for Pets with Cancer

Immunotherapy for Pets with Cancer

Hearing that one of our pets has cancer can be the most devastating news an owner can hear. Cancer in pets has become the leading cause of death of older animals (older than ten years). Fortunately for pet owners, advances in veterinary science have developed the practice of immunotherapy for animals.

​​​​​​​For an increasing number of pets, immunotherapy is an option that helps to slow, and even cure cancer. While this doesn’t mean that every pet can be cured of cancer, it does mean that you have some powerful tools at your disposal to fight against cancer.

sick dog

Understanding Treatment Options for Pets with Cancer

There are a number of potential treatment options if your pet has been diagnosed with cancer. Work with your veterinarian to help determine which options may be best for your animal. Many of the treatment options can be combined to help eliminate or slow the progression of cancer.

– Many animals benefit from surgery, depending on the location and severity of cancer. In this treatment, the cancerous cells are physically removed from the animal. While this procedure is invasive and can be dangerous, depending on the progression of the disease, it offers one way to clear existing, known cancer cells from the body.

– This option utilizes powerful drugs to kill the cancer cells from the body. This treatment can be given with a pill, or by injecting directly to the tumor.

– This option utilizes cold temperatures to rid the body of cancer. Typically, this approach is best used on cancer that is small and superficial tumors.

– This approach introduces antibodies to the body to help boost your animal’s immune system to fight off the disease. Other approaches can also target the signals that are produced by cancer cells. This can help to block cancer’s ability to spread and grow and allow your pet’s immune system to function.

Immunotherapy 101

Immunotherapy is commonly used in humans to help treat and stop the spread of cancer. Recent treatments also show that treatment can be effective for animals. Both humans and animals have the natural ability to fight off cancer cells, specifically the Cytotoxic T lymphocytes.

However, cancer sometimes has the ability to shut down the body’s defenses and spread throughout the body. Immunotherapy works to allow the natural defenses to function properly. This can be through medications that help to trigger the immune system into a response, or by blocking cancer from being able to suppress the immune system directly.

Immunotherapy has become so successful in human patients that it is used for over 20 types of cancer and is receiving numerous awards for its ability to help patients who had few or no other options to treat their cancer. Veterinarians have seen similar outcomes for pets with immunotherapy.

​​​​​​​Many veterinarians prefer to use immunotherapy as at least a part of the overall treatment for pets. While surgeries can help to remove the majority or all of a tumor, they can sometimes miss other small pockets of cancer. Surgeries can even sometimes aid the spread of cancer throughout the body. However, when surgery is combined with immunotherapy, it can physically remove the majority of cancer and allow the body to clean up any remnants by building the immune system.


A cancer diagnosis in your pet can be scary. If you think your pet has cancer, or you have recently had a pet diagnosed with cancer, call the Animal Cancer Care Specialists. Our talented staff has the experience and knowledge that your pet needs to fight back against cancer. Call today to schedule your appointment.