Dogs are one of the most popular pets in the United States and there are nearly 80 million domestic dogs in homes across the country. This is hardly surprising. Dogs make excellent companions, are fiercely loyal to their families and fill any home with love.
But unfortunately, they aren’t immune to illness. Every year, vets diagnose roughly 6 million cases of cancer in dogs. And dogs over the age of 10 have a 50% chance of suffering from the disease.
This is a horrible moment for any owner. It can leave you feeling helpless and unsure of what to do next. But understanding your dog’s different treatment options can help you on your journey.
That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide on cancer treatment for dogs. Read on to find out more.
Understanding the Different Types of Cancer in Dogs
Understanding what type of cancer your dog has in an important step in ensuring they get the best type of treatment. There are several different types of dog cancer but some of the most common ones include:
- Mast cell tumors
- Soft-tissue sarcomas
These different types of cancer affect certain parts of your dog’s body. Melanoma, for example, often develops in areas of the skin while osteosarcoma is bone cancer. But if they aren’t treated properly then it is possible that these cancer cells will spread to other parts of the body.
There are lots of reasons why dogs develop cancer. Age and environment play a part and dogs that are spayed or neutered are less likely to develop certain types of cancer. Some breeds of dogs are also more likely to get cancer as well, so it’s important to be familiar with these in advance and watch out for symptoms.
But once you know that your dog has cancer the most important thing is getting an accurate prognosis for their illness. This is different from diagnosis, as it outlines the full extent of their illness. You can use this information to help you decide the best course of treatment moving forward.
How Do You Treat Dog Cancer?
When it comes to treating your dog’s cancer there are lots of options. The best one for your dog might vary depending on the type of cancer that they have and how far the disease has progressed.
If your dog has cancerous tumors a vet may suggest treating these by removing them surgically. However, if the cancer has spread then they may suggest combining this with a course or courses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. If your dog doesn’t have any tumors then they may use one of these therapies in isolation.
Depending on your dog’s cancer their vet might also recommend immunotherapy. This is a type of vaccine that only works against melanoma. But researchers are currently looking to develop immunotherapy for other cancers.
For now, surgery, chemo, and radiotherapy are your best options. So let’s take a look at how each of these treatments works.
You’re probably already fairly familiar with surgery. This procedure aims to remove cancerous cells from the body manually.
This involves anesthetizing your dog before removing any cancerous cells. If you catch the cancer early, this can be a very straight forward procedure. However, it does involve some recovery time.
When you collect your dog from the vet they may be a little groggy and slower than usual. This is perfectly normal and should last around 12 hours.
If your dog has had stitches then it’s important to keep their exercise regime to a minimum. Similarly, if they have any bandages you will need to keep these clean and dry while they recover.
In some cases, surgery alone won’t be enough to remove all the cancerous cells. When this happens your dog’s vet may recommend a course of chemotherapy or radiotherapy following surgery to give rid of the final cells.
Chemotherapy is a great way of targeting cancer cells throughout your dog’s body. It involves a course of drugs, which a vet will administer to your dog.
There are several ways in which chemo drugs can be administered. Your vet may give them orally in tablet form, use an IV drip or apply them directly onto the skin. In some cases, they may target particular areas by administering them under the skin, into a muscle or directly into the tumor.
The upside of chemotherapy for dogs is that they don’t suffer from the same side effects that humans do. This is because they don’t receive the same strength dose that a human would.
They may experience some mild vomiting or diarrhea and a lot of dogs lose some of their hair during chemo. But apart from that, this course of treatment shouldn’t cause them a great deal of discomfort.
Radiotherapy is a little more invasive as a treatment option but it’s great for targeting specific areas of the body.
For this procedure, the vet will anesthetize your dog. This allows them to accurately target the desired areas for a more effective treatment.
Your dog will have to undergo a series of radiotherapy treatments over around 4 weeks. Towards the end of their treatment, you may notice some side effects from this treatment. These include:
- Hair loss
- Sore skin, gums, eyes or lips
- Localized discomfort
These side effects often only occur in the treatment area and will go away within one month of treatment. If the side effects are particularly severe your vet may prescribe some tablets, creams or drops to manage them.
Because of the anesthetic you dog may also be a little drowsy following their treatment. Again, this is totally normal and should only last twelve hours. If you do notice that it’s lasting longer then you should mention this to your vet.
Alternative Cancer Treatment for Dogs
The three treatments we’ve already mentioned are the most common ones prescribed by vets. However, some owners like to look at alternative treatments for their pets.
These may not work as a dog cancer cure but they can help ease the symptoms of cancer. This is important because cancer often makes your dog feel weaker, which makes it harder to fight the disease.
Diet control is an important way to aid your dog’s recovery from cancer. Cancer cells increase your dog’s metabolic rate meaning that they burn through food much quicker and lose energy. This is especially damaging as they need all their energy to fight their disease with.
Picking the right food for your dog is key.
Cancer cells love carbohydrates so reducing your dog’s carb intake can help to fight cells off. In contrast, foods that are high in fatty acids, like fish, slow down your dog’s metabolic rate. So they’re a great way to combat the effect of cancer cells.
Another popular way to ease your dog’s cancer symptoms is by using CBD oil. This might seem like an unconventional method but people are raving about the effects of CBD oil for dogs with cancer.
CBD oil, extracted from the hemp plant, has several beneficial effects on your dog. These include:
- Increasing their appetite during treatment.
- Easing aches and pain as they recover from treatment.
- Reducing inflamed joints.
- Slowing down tumor growth.
- Reducing the chance and length of seizures.
CBD oil is available in various forms from tablets to oils. You can even use a tincture and apply it topically. Just make sure you speak to your vet before using it on your dog, which leads us to our next point.
Speak to a Specialist About Dog Cancer Treatment
If you are worried about your dog’s treatment or have any questions, it’s important to talk to your vet. They will be happy to discuss your options with you, however many times you like.
They may also be able to help by referring you for specialist support. A veterinary oncologist is a specialist in different types of dog cancer. They’ll be able to advise you on the best course of treatment for your dog.
But going through this can take a real emotional toll on you as an owner so it’s important to ensure you have proper support around you. A vet will be able to put you in touch with specialist councilors if you need someone to talk to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
The Bottom Line
There is no easy way to deal with cancer in dogs. But knowing about your treatment options is a good place to start on your journey.
For more support and tips on looking after your favorite canine, keep scrolling!