Cancer occurs in pets just like it does in humans -- abnormal cells divide and multiply, causing tumors or spreading to the blood or tissue. Sadly, approximately one-fourth of all dogs will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and one half of all senior dogs will ultimately succumb to some form of the disease.
Treatment will depend on the form of cancer that your dog has as well as the severity of their condition. Some dogs are candidates for chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery, while others may be past the point where those procedures would be helpful. Treatment for those dogs is purely supportive and is aimed at relieving symptoms and keeping the dog comfortable while they are alive.
Cancer Medications for Dogs
As part of treatment, your veterinarian may prescribe medications to relieve pain or control the spreading of the disease. Pet meds for cancer include:
Leukeran is an immunosuppressant medication used in the treatment of leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, and certain cancers, including ovarian cancer, lymphocytic leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Leukeran is not a cure, but it may help to reduce the severity of symptoms and keep the disease from spreading. It is available in pill form.
Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid that works as a powerful anti-inflammatory against many conditions, including cancer. It relieves pain by inhibiting inflammation and reducing swelling and irritation. It is available as an injection, unflavored tablets, or drops.
Rimadyl is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that can help to relieve the pain associated with certain cancers. It is often used in the treatment of joint conditions such as arthritis and hip dysplasia, and the way that it reduces swelling and inflammation in those conditions can benefit cancer sufferers as well. Rimadyl works by blocking COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes, which play a key role in the production of prostaglandins -- the chemicals that cause swelling and send signals to the brain about pain. It is available in caplets or chewable tablets.
- Previcox (Firocoxib, Deltasone, Sterapred)
Like Rimadyl, Previcox is an NSAID used to treat pain and inflammation. However unlike Rimadyl, Previcox blocks only COX-2 enzymes and leaves behind COX-1 enzymes to maintain kidney health, the stomach lining, and platelet production. It is available in pill form and should only be given to dogs over 7 weeks of age or older and 12.5 lbs or more.
Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant drug used to treat chronic pain, such as that caused by certain cancers. It is also commonly used to treat epilepsy and prevent seizures. It is available in pill form.
Sucralfate is a gastro-protectant medication used to treat ulcers that can develop in your dog’s throat, mouth, esophagus, or intestines as a result of many conditions, including cancer. Sucralfate works with stomach acids to create a barrier around the ulcer that protects it from further damage so that it has time to heal. Sucralfate can also work to prevent ulcers by stimulating mucus production that absorbs bile acids and filling holes in the esophagus or intestines before an ulcer can form. It is available in pill form.
More on Cancer In Dogs
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