Pets today are living longer and healthier lives. As pets age, diseases such as heart and kidney failure and cancer become more common. Dogs and cats can develop many different kinds of cancers. A diagnosis of cancer in your pet is very upsetting and can be overwhelming, but there is hope as many different types of cancer are treatable and even curable. Treatments can be provided to many pets with minimal side effects and provide a good quality of life for as long as possible for your cat or dog. A diagnosis of cancer in your pet is not a death sentence!
Whether your pet diagnosed with cancer can receive a successful treatment will depend on a number of things:
• The type of cancer (diagnosis from pathologist)
• The location of the cancer (where it is on the body)
• The grade of the cancer (how aggressive)
• The stage of the cancer (has it spread and where in the body)
• The general health of your pet (any other medical problems)
Once we have a complete understanding of your pet’s health and type, grade, and stage of cancer, we can determine the best treatment options for you and your pet. Treatment of cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy, or treatments (medication) that provide comfort for your pet.
Surgery is one of the most important forms of cancer treatment. Tumors that occur in the soft tissues (skin, connective tissues, muscle) or in joints or bones can often be successfully removed to provide a good quality and long quality of life for your pet. A first aggressive and wide surgery around the tumor is frequently needed and provides the best chance of cure. Tumors on internal organs can also be removed and include lung, liver, kidney, and other organs. These surgeries are often more involved and may require special surgical skills and intensive post-operative monitoring and care for your pet while they recover. Dr. J Liptak is a board certified surgeon at Alta Vista Animal Hospital with extensive advanced training and experience in surgical oncology and can help answer questions or concerns you may have regarding surgery.
Chemotherapy has been very successful in treating certain types of cancers involving the blood or immune cells. Lymphoma, a cancer of the immune cells commonly diagnosed in dogs and cats, is treated with great success in 80-90% of pets treated with an excellent quality of life. Chemotherapy is also used to treat dogs and cats diagnosed with aggressive cancers and those in which there is concern for early spread of cancer after a tumor is removed. Chemotherapy drugs may include pills, injections, or IV drips, depending on the type of cancer. All treatments are given as outpatients with dogs and cats returning home in the afternoon. Most pets do not show any side effects to chemotherapy. A small number of patients (15-20%) will have loss of appetite or an upset stomach or bowels and require medication, which will help control any current or future problems. Hair loss is exceptionally rare in pets treated with chemotherapy. Pets receiving chemotherapy should be able to perform and enjoy all of their normal activities. The type of chemotherapy and schedule of treatments vary depending on the cancer and will be discussed with you to determine what options are best for you and your pet.