Receiving a cancer diagnosis for your pet can be a frightening, stressful experience. In the United States, close to 10% of dogs will develop cancer at some point in their life, with more than 50% of dogs over the age of 10 suffering from some type of cancer. Whether your pet is diagnosed with mammary, skin, or endocrine tumors, lymphosarcoma, or another type of cancer, it’s important to know the medical options that might be recommended as part of your pet’s cancer treatment. At TrueCare, we offer a robust pet oncology program, specializing in radiation therapy, in addition to our emergency veterinary care.
Types of Pet Oncology
While the cancer treatment for your pet will be determined by their specific diagnosis, it’s beneficial to start this journey knowing a range of options including but not limited to surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation therapy.
If surgery is determined as the best—or one—option for treating your pet’s cancer, general anesthesia will be used to excise some or all of the cancerous tumor. Surgery may also be a first step in determining the type of cancer by performing a biopsy to guide further tests and treatments.
If your pet’s cancer hasn’t spread to other parts of their body, surgery can be used to remove the tumor while alleviating pain and restoring your pet’s health.
While not often used as a singular form of treatment, chemotherapy may also be recommended as part of your pet’s cancer treatment plan in conjunction with other oncological treatments. With chemotherapy, chemical agents destroy and/or inhibit the growth of further cancerous cells.
Unlike surgery which is used for smaller areas of cancer, chemotherapy is more often used when tumors have spread throughout the body, or there is a high risk of the cancer spreading from its initial location. There are also cases when chemotherapy will be used prior to surgery, in order to shrink the tumors to a size that is safer for surgery and minimizes the risk of the cancer spreading to other parts of the body.
A newer therapy, immunotherapy is different than radiation or chemotherapy, in that it’s capable of targeting only the abnormal cells while remaining healthy cells are left alone. In immunotherapy, your pet’s own immune system is used to fight off the poisonous cells. When cancer cells grow too quickly, an oncologist may stimulate your pet’s immune system so they recognize and attack the growing cancer cells more quickly.
With research still being conducted around immunotherapy, oncologists believe that this treatment works best when treating a smaller amount of cancer—meaning that other types of oncological treatments like surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy may be used first to shrink the size of the cancerous tumor.
A common treatment for cancer, the use of high doses of targeted radiation will damage the DNA of cancer cells, stopping the replication of cells and killing them. Radiation therapy can also be used to provide pain relief and improve the quality of life of pets suffering from cancer. Using general anesthesia, your TrueCare for Pets radiation oncologist will ensure that your pet is completely calm and still before delivering a quick, targeted beam of radiation to the affected tissues. To ensure that your pet’s cancer is being treated deliberately, a CT scan will be used prior to treatment to pinpoint the location of the cancer while allowing the oncologist to create a unique treatment plan based on the particular conditions of your pets illness.
Learn More About Radiation Oncology