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Cancer Treatment for Dogs and Cats

Receiving a cancer diagnosis for your furry friend can be a heartbreaking experience, but you should know that many cancers offer a good chance or recovery, particularly if they are detected and treated early.

Diagnosing cancer

Sadly, there is no simple blood test that will determine whether or not your pet has cancer. Just like in humans, cancer in animals can take on many forms and impact on any organ in the body, so the test will need to be targeted to the type and location. Your veterinarian will start by getting a full medical history of your dog or cat, and speak to you about any recent symptoms that are giving you cause for concern, such as abnormal lumps, sores, or changes in energy levels or bathroom habits. 

Skin issues can be examined directly, and abnormal lumps may be biopsied or removed completely and sent off for analysis. If there are no external signs, you vet may then order x-rays (which check the bones or lungs), ultrasounds (which examine the organs such as liver, bowels or heart) or a CT scan, which can be used for spotting brain tumors, or confirming a cancer diagnosis in other parts of the body.

Treatment options

If your beloved fur baby is unlucky enough to be diagnosed with cancer, your veterinarian will discuss with you the most appropriate treatment options available. Again, this will be determined by the form of cancer, as well as how advanced it is. In some cases, a combination of treatments may be used.

Surgery – this is the most common first step for tumors, with the aim of removing all the cancerous cells before they can spread to other areas. This treatment works best if the cancer is localized and easily accessible, such as under the skin, but may not be appropriate for brain tumors, or cancers such as bone or blood cancer. Surgery can be used in combination with radiation therapy or chemotherapy to ensure any remaining malignant cells are destroyed.

Chemotherapy – many pet owners are concerned if their vet brings up the option of chemotherapy, but it is important to note that dogs and cats suffer fewer side effects from the treatment than humans do. Chemotherapy is most useful in stopping cancer from spreading to other parts of the body but is not always effective against large tumors. It is also the most effective treatment for non-localized cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia

Radiation therapy – although not as widely used as chemotherapy, radiation treatment is becoming more sophisticated and readily available. This treatment can be highly targeted to treat areas inaccessible to surgery such as the brain.

Immunotherapy – this form of treatment does not actually target cancer itself, but rather stimulates that animal’s own immune system to combat the disease. This often takes the form of a vaccine.

Palliative care – unfortunately, not all forms of cancers can be cured, particularly if they are in the advanced stages. Or it could be that the only treatment options available are too dangerous for your pet’s health. In these cases, your vet will advise you of palliative care. Essentially this means reducing the suffering of your dog or cat by relieving symptoms, such as pain, without trying to cure the disease.

Cancer Treatment for Dogs and Cats

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