Diagnosis And Treatment Of Cancer In Dogs


Cancer is a challenging reality for pet owners but a common issue. Statistics indicate that 1 in 5 cats and 1 in 3 dogs will develop cancer at some stage in their lives, making it a significant cause of death among older pets. On a positive note, many cancers can be effectively treated if detected early.

Diagnose Of Cancer In Dogs

A physical examination checks for any unusual or unexplained lumps, bruises, or masses that can be felt when pressing on the body's surface to feel the organs or tissues underneath. Your veterinarian may suggest a fine-needle aspirate (FNA) to collect a mass sample for analysis. Alternatively, a biopsy, which involves collecting a more significant sample, usually under heavy sedation or anesthesia, may be conducted to study the type, malignancy, and grade of the tumor. This information helps in understanding how the cancer might progress.

Blood and urine tests are typically done next to identify signs pointing to a specific organ or body system. Imaging, such as ultrasound or X-rays, may also be recommended to check for masses in the chest or abdomen.

After diagnosis, your veterinarian might suggest refer you to an oncologist or additional tests for further treatment and testing. This could include staging, which determines the extent of cancer spread, using CT scans, bone marrow aspirates, or more biopsies.

The prognosis depends on the type of cancer and is affected by its grade and stage. Generally, a higher grade and more advanced stage indicate a poorer prognosis.

Treatments Of Cancer In Dogs

There are generally three treatment options for cancer in dogs:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy

Some cancers may respond well to one type of treatment, while others may need a combination of these methods for the best outcome. Unfortunately, achieving a complete cure is challenging.

Management And Treatment Of Cancer In Dogs

Treating cancer in dogs differs from treating cancer in humans due to different goals and expectations. The primary aim is to maintain a good quality of life, so drug dosages and administration frequencies are often lower than those prescribed for humans to minimize side effects. Common side effects in dogs include decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea, though serious side effects like bone marrow suppression and infections can occur. Most dogs, with few breed exceptions, do not lose their hair.

It's important to keep your dog comfortable and adequately manage their pain during chemotherapy. This requires a good partnership with your veterinarian, following appointment recommendations, and keeping up with bloodwork monitoring and other tests.

Caring for a dog with cancer is challenging and can be emotionally taxing, but it's essential to make the most of each day through play, bonding, and love.

Deciding when to stop treatment or consider euthanasia is a personal decision for each pet and its owner. Factors such as prognosis, metastasis, treatment risks, cost, and quality of life are often considered. When assessing the quality of life, consider the 5 Freedoms:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst
  • Freedom from discomfort
  • Freedom from pain, injury, and disease
  • Freedom to express normal behavior
  • Freedom from fear and distress

Your veterinarian is the best resource for knowing when it might be time to stop treatment. They are trained in end-of-life care and disease outcomes and can provide valuable resources and tools to help make this difficult decision.

Minimizing Cancer Risks In Dogs

Unfortunately, there is not much a pet owner can do to prevent most cancers. Regular checkups and prompt veterinary visits for new lumps or unexplained illnesses are essential. Limiting sun and UV exposure, getting your dog spayed or neutered, and scheduling more frequent screenings for breeds prone to certain tumors are recommended steps.


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