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Managing Costs of Cancer Treatment for Dogs

Assessing Financial Options When Your Dog Is Diagnosed With Cancer

By Madeleine Burry. July 22, 2013 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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Managing Costs of Cancer Treatment for Dogs

Finding out your dog has been diagnosed with cancer is hard enough to cope with. So when pet parents find out the cost of cancer treatment for their pet, that can make things seem hopeless. Learn more about what different options are available, and ways to make the cost of treatment more manageable.

After the diagnosis, and the initial shock of finding out your dog has cancer, you may start to feel overwhelmed with the financial concerns. Cancer can be an expensive disease to treat, regardless of whether it strikes a person or a pet. Find out about some of the potential cancer treatments for dogs, and get a sense of their cost.

Can Pet Insurance Help Pay for Cancer Treatments?

If you purchased pet insurance prior to the cancer diagnosis, this may help differ some of the financial burden. All this depends on the variety of coverage you have - while all pet insurances include accident coverage, it’s generally an optional add-on to cover illnesses. If your pet is not covered by illness insurance, there won’t be any financial assistance from the insurance. If you do have coverage for illnesses, then you will likely need to pay the bills at the vet’s office, and then submit copies of the receipts to the insurance company for reimbursement.

One further note: After a cancer diagnosis, it will be impossible to get coverage for your pet if they didn’t have it already, since by that point it’s then considered a prior condition.

Cancer Treatment Options for Dogs -- and Their Price Tags

The cost of treatment options will vary based on several factors, including the severity and type of cancer afflicting your pet. If your pet is receiving chemotherapy, their size can impact the cost as well, since larger dogs require greater quantities of drugs.The cost of the diagnostic testing alone might give you some perspective on how expensive the actual treatment might be - the sonograms and blood tests can get up into the thousands.

The most common treatment options are:

  • Chemotherapy: This treatment uses drugs to attack the cancer. Costs can vary based on the particular medication used, the number of rounds of chemo required, and the size of your dog, but each treatment is usually around $1,000. This means you could expect the total bill for the entire course of treatment to wind up being between $6,000 and $10,000.

  • Radiation: This treatment is used with tumors that cannot be accessed with surgery because of their location. Radiation is usually administered twice a week for up to around five weeks, and the total cost for the course of radiation is typically between $5,000 and $7,000. Each treatment session with radiation is fairly brief, lasting for less than half an hour.

  • Surgery: This option is used if there’s a tumor, or tumors, that can be accessed and removed. Sometimes surgery alone can be curative, if the cancer has not metastasized and spread. In other cases, surgery is the vet’s first move, and chemotherapy is also required to quell the disease. The cost for surgery can range between $2,500 and $6,000 for the one-time surgery.

It’s important to note that all costs can vary based on where you live -- as with more day-to-day expenses, pet care in big cities with high costs of living like New York City or San Francisco will often be pricier than in other areas of the United States.

If You Can’t Afford the Bills

Given the cost of these treatments, it’s not unreasonable that you -- and your wallet -- may be wincing. If you do not have the money available for treatment, you have a few different options besides declining to treat your pet’s illness.

First, talk to your vet: some veterinarians can afford to be understanding about your financial concerns, and may allow you to pay for the treatment on an interest-free payment plan. Keep in mind that chemo is often paid per session, and not in a lump sum, which can also help. Consider reaching out to other vets in the area for a second opinion on the treatment plan and pricing information.

Pet Health Benefits Plans

Different from pet insurance, health benefits plans are monthly or yearly membership plans that allow you to take advantage of discounts on prescriptions, vet visits, and even surgery and cancer treatments. Learn more about PetPlus, PetCareRx's pet health benefits plan that'll give you 25% savings on vet visits and up to 75% on prescriptions.

Charity Groups

Finally, if the sums are significantly out of your range, look into charitable help -- there are many organizations that provide financial assistance for health care for cats and dogs. A few to consider are:

  • The Dog & Cat Cancer Fund: This organization provides assistance if the pet’s prognosis post-treatment is strong, so it’s not an option for very elderly pets, recurrent bouts of cancer, or any animals that have a poor prognosis.

  • Fairy Dogparents: This organization offers help for dogs in Massachusetts.

  • The Pet Fund: This organization helps with the medical bills to prevent animals from winding up in shelters. You’ll need to submit proof of your income along with your application, as well as a cost estimate from your vet.
More on Cancer in Pets

Bone Cancer in Cats and Dogs
Nutrition For Dealing With Cancer In Dogs and Cats
Cancer in Pets - Histiocytosis
Mast Cell Cancer In Dogs and Cats

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Cancer Care at a glance

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  • 1The cost of cancer treatment can vary based on factors outside of the pet’s health, like where you live.
  • 2Talk to your vet if you anticipate that the bill will be too steep for you to pay.
  • 3Pet insurance can help, but only if you purchased it prior to diagnosis, and had illness protection.
  • 4A pet health benefits plan, like Protection Plus, is different from insurance and could save you 25%.