In the human and animal world, cancer is a frightening and horrible disease to encounter however similar to humans, there are numerous treatment options and in many cases, higher chances of cures for our pets. The very threat of cancer would be one of the many reasons to make sure your pets are insured. Although there are great things we can now do to cure our pets of cancer, like humans, they are potentially expensive and have no guarantee of success. Every single week all veterinary clinics would have clients compromise on the best treatments available or not treat at all, due to the potential costs involved.
As veterinarians, we are delighted to be able to give a fighting chance to pets with serious illness, hence our strong advice that all pets be insured. As stated in our section on lumps, the best thing you can do is have any new lump checked out early because this gives the best chance of getting a positive result. Unfortunately many cancers start internally and the first sign may be an unwell patient. What options do we have for treating cancer in our pets? All the following are available:
- Surgical Excision (The mainstay of treatments)
Before the above considerations, a diagnosis of exactly what the cancer is would be advised. Depending on the type of cancer we can recommend which procedures will give the best results.
This is still the number one way to potentially cure a cancer. Depending on our level of suspicion we may recommend an initial surgery with a reasonable margin of tissue, and then consider sending it to pathology to identify exactly what it is. The advantage of a pathology report is that if a tumour comes back a lot more aggressive than we may have anticipated, a second more aggressive surgery or perhaps chemo or radiation done now, gives a much greater chance of cure than waiting until the mass returns – at which time our chance of cure is significantly less.
Occasionally we may recommend a surgical biopsy of the mass first. The advantage of this is to see if we need a more aggressive surgery from the start. The disadvantages are increased cost and the need for two anesthetics.
Many dog and cat tumours these days are amenable to various forms of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy may give some chance of curing the cancer, or may just delay the cancers return for a significant period of time. At this stage, our chance of curing cancer with chemotherapy is not as good as human chemotherapy, however the good news for cats and dogs is that the side effects we suffer are not nearly so bad for our pets because they tolerate chemotherapy a lot better that we do.
Similar to chemotherapy, radiation is increasingly available to us as a weapon against cancer, and may potentially cure, or at least give a lot more quality time with a happy pet.