As with the symptoms of cancer, the treatment plan for your pet’s cancer will depend on the type of cancer, the stage of cancer, and the location of the cancer. Because cancer is such a major diagnosis, it might make sense to get a second opinion from another veterinarian so that you can determine the treatment plan that makes the most sense for your pet, your family, and yourself. A veterinary oncologist is a good choice for a second opinion, as they can perform diagnostic tests such as an abdominal ultrasound, and can perform biopsies.
In order to diagnose your pet with cancer, the vet will generally need to do a thorough physical and take a medical history. Be sure to tell your vet about any symptoms you have noticed from your cat or dog, like unexpected weight loss or lethargy. Any personality change or adjustment to habits is worth noting at this point. As well as the physical, your vet may take blood in order to do a complete blood count. Blood tests may reveal signs of some cancers, such as feline leukemia. X-rays and other scans can be used to find signs of tumors inside your pet, such as in the lungs. If your pet has a lump, the vet may take a biopsy to reveal if the tumor is malignant or not.
Major Treatment Options:
Many times, several treatment methods will be used in conjunction in order to best attack the cancer in your pet. The basic options for treatment are:
Surgery: The goal of surgery is to remove the cancerous growth from your pet. This is most effective if the cancer has not metastasized, and is often used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiology.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs are more helpful in humans than they are in pets; in cats, the drugs are used to put cats in remission (and not to cure them). With dogs, chemotherapy is also not generally used as a curative either; rather, vets use chemotherapy on dogs as a mode of controlling the disease’s progress.
Cryotherapy and Hyperthermy: Both of these treatments can be used to remove tumors from pets. Cryotherapy uses cold temperatures to freeze off growths, and hyperthermy does the reverse, using heat to burn growths off pets.
Immunotherapy: This technique aims to use the body’s immune system response to fight the cancerous cells within your pet’s body.
Radiology: For tumors that are in locations that aren’t reachable by surgery, cryotherapy, or hypertherapy, radiation can be used to access the tumor and eradicate it. This method needs to be done in a medical center or hospital with the appropriate equipment available.
The prognosis for a cat or dog’s diagnosis with cancer depends on many things -- the stage of the cancer, the location of any tumor, and the type of cancer. In many cases, going after a cure isn’t possible, and the goal of treatment is primarily your pet’s comfort, or a brief remission. Cancer treatments can extend your pet’s life by weeks, months, or years depending on the diagnosis and treatment options available.
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.
More on Types of Cancer
Mast Cell Cancer in Pets
Bone Cancer in Pets
Lymphoma in Cats and Dogs
Histiocytosis in Pets