A loved one’s cancer diagnosis is devastating on many levels. It’s easy to feel helpless when your companion animal is diagnosed with cancer. You can educate yourself and care for your cancer-affected dog by taking certain actions. The ten actions below will help you relax and understand what to do if you hear the words “your dog has cancer.”
Understand Cancer in Dogs is Common
It’s not uncommon for dogs to have cancer. Your dog’s immune system weakens with age, and cancer becomes a greater risk, just as it does in humans. During these trying times, you and your dog are not alone.
Cancer is the leading cause of death in 47 percent of dogs (particularly dogs over the age of 10) and 32 percent of cats, according to the Veterinary Cancer Society. Dogs and cats both develop cancer at about the same rate, while cats get cancer at a lower rate. In dogs, there are over 100 different forms of cancer with mast cell cancers being the most prevalent. Cancer is most commonly detected in mature dogs, but some breeds have greater cancer rates than others.
It could be beneficial to join and attend a support group for dog lovers who are struggling with sick animals. This may alleviate some of your anxiety, solitude, and worry. Check with your veterinarian to see if any local, in-person groups exist.
You can also take a look at online communities. Please keep in mind that these online communities are usually run by other pet owners, not mental health professionals. Consider speaking with a licensed therapist if you believe you require additional psychological assistance. Your veterinarian should be able to refer you to bereavement support services in your region.
Learn About Your Dog’s Cancer
Cancer is a condition that occurs when the body’s cells grow out of control. Cancers are frequently named for the sort of out-of-control cell. Cancer, malignancy, and neoplasia are all synonyms for cancer; they’re just different ways of saying the same thing.
There are many different forms of cancer, each with its own set of symptoms. Some cancers have the ability to spread to other parts of the body, even if they are far away from where they started. Because cancer cells can enter the blood or lymph vessels and travel to other organs, this frequently happens in the later stages of cancer. It’s called metastasis when cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
As with any diagnosis, whether in a person or a pet, educate yourself on the options, expenses, benefits, and drawbacks of treating your pet. Consider the holistic options you have as well as the traditional.
Find a Veterinary Oncologist
When your dog is diagnosed with cancer, you may feel overwhelmed by the options available to you. Get a second opinion from a board-certified veterinary oncologist, just like we do in human health. This could either confirm or bring up new treatment options for your dog.
Learn the Jargon
The veterinary oncologist will explain what is happening to your dog’s body. Understanding veterinary medical terms will help you better grasp what your dog’s oncologist is recommending.
Before you go on the visit, do some research to familiarize yourself with some of the terms. Bring a notebook to your veterinary oncology appointment so you can jot down information regarding treatment options and the following steps. Do not be hesitant to inquire.
Understand How Information is Discovered
Your veterinarian may request numerous tests to gather information to assist with evaluating the extent of the cancer. Blood tests (e.g., blood count, chemical profile), urinalysis, radiographs (X-rays, ultrasound), tissue aspirate, and biopsy are all examples of these tests. Due to the changing nature of your dog’s condition, tests performed by your local veterinarian may need to be redone at a cancer specialty clinic.
Ultrasound, specialized radiographic studies (e.g. nuclear scan, CT or MRI scan, dye contrast studies), bone marrow aspirate, lymph node aspirate, endoscopy (direct examination of the stomach, colon, or lung with a specialized scope and camera), and immunologic studies are some of the other tests that may be used.
Your veterinarian will be better prepared to discuss treatment choices for your pet after this testing is finished. The therapeutic objective will also be discussed. Tumors that have severely metastasized (spread to other parts of the body) are usually incurable.
As a result, palliation is the goal of therapy for these animals (relieve of symptoms and possibly prolong life, without providing a cure). Tumors that are localized and do not infect nearby tissues have the best chance of being eliminated.
Consider the Joys of Life
Animal cancer treatment focuses on reducing pain and suffering while also extending life, as long as the quality of that life can be maintained. In comparison to humans, treatment is usually gentler.
What brings joy to your dog’s life? Is it going for a swim at the neighborhood pond, sunning on the front porch, taking a long walk in the woods, or simply snuggling up with you? Your dog’s quality of life is compromised if they can’t enjoy these activities or if they bring them greater pain.
Will the recommended treatment encourage a more positive life? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
Maintain a Routine
Exercising, going on walks, and playing with your dog are all good ways to keep a healthy mindset for both you and your dog. Our dogs are creatures of habit. It keeps them busy and interested, which is especially important if they will have to visit the veterinarian frequently for treatment.