Many pet owners are surprised to learn that cancer is one of the most common medical conditions affecting companion animals – particularly those that are over the age of 10 years. And while certain breeds are more genetically predisposed to developing cancer, it’s a disease that can affect just about any pet at any time. At Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Care, we have specialists that are experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of cancers.

Some of the signs and symptoms your pet may exhibit that may indicate the presence of cancer include, but are not limited to:

  • Lumps or bumps, on or beneath the skin
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Pain
  • Difficulty urinating or defecating
  • Changes in mood or personality
  • Unusual behavior

Of course, if your pet shows any of these signs, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she has cancer. The first step is having them checked and thoroughly screened. Then we can determine exactly what we’re dealing with and determine the appropriate course of action accordingly.

Routine Cancer Screenings

As your companion grows older, even if there are no outward signs of a problem, it’s important that you bring them into your veterinarian for routine health screenings every 6 – 12 months. This allows them to examine your pet thoroughly and if necessary run diagnostic tests to help us determine whether there is anything present that we should be concerned about. If your veterinarian determines that your pet has or may have cancer, they will likely refer you to a specialist to help determine the best options to treat them. As with humans, the earlier we diagnose and treat cancer in pets, the better the outcome.

Cancer Treatment Options

There are a number of different ways we can treat cancer in companion animals, from chemotherapy and radiation to immunotherapy and surgery – or some combination of these. The chosen path will ultimately depend on your pet’s specific situation, such as his or her age and current health status as well as the type of cancer, how much it has progressed and a number of other unique factors. We will work with you to help you make the best decision for your family.

It’s important to point out that cancer treatment in animals is quite different from that of humans. Dogs and cats are generally able to tolerate treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, much better than people do. A small percentage of animals may experience some side effects, and even fewer require hospitalization. For those pets that do experience side effects, there are a number of methods we can employ to help manage them, such as anti-nausea medication and antibiotics.

Options and Support

If we determine that your pet requires ongoing treatments for cancer, we will work with you to develop a plan that will focus on helping your loved one maintain the highest quality of life for as possible. As we move forward with your pet’s course of treatment, we will closely monitor them for any changes – either positive or negative – and make any necessary adjustments to our approach as needed.

For cases where cancer has progressed past the point where treatment will effectively improve quality of life for your pet, we’ll be here to educate you on your options, answer your questions and discuss the details of your particular situation. Whether you ultimately choose hospice care or compassionate euthanasia, you’ll be provided with as much information as you need to help you make the right decision.

Most importantly, we want you to know that we understand how difficult this time is for you and your family. We want to remind you that you’re never alone. At any time, should a question or concern cross your mind, we encourage you to give us a call so we can talk it through. We want you to feel comfortable discussing things with us, because we feel that this allows us to fully support and partner with you in this difficult journey. Whatever the outcome, we’ll be there – every step of the way.

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