What to Do If Your Dog Has Cancer

Many pet parents have a difficult time when their dog is diagnosed with cancer. The very words bring time to a standstill as you take in the information. Once the realization hits, then there are questions, fear, and other emotions to deal with. It can all be very overwhelming. 

If your dog has been diagnosed with cancer, we understand that this is a difficult time for you. In this article, we’ve put together a short guide on what to do after your fur baby’s been diagnosed with cancer. 

Steps to Take After Your Dog’s Cancer Diagnosis

First, we want to reassure you there’s no need to panic. Your fur baby has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition, but remember that your canine companion needs you now more than ever. 

1. Cancer is common in dogs

according to the Animal Cancer Foundation, about 65 million dogs are diagnosed with cancer each year. It’s important to understand that cancer is common, especially in older dogs. You and your dog are not alone. In fact, there are some online groups that help pet parents cope with a cancer diagnosis. You can try an online group such as: 

  • Pets with Cancer Forum
  • Pet Cancer Discussion

These groups are run by other pet parents, not mental health practitioners. Even so, these groups may be helpful as you and your dog deal with cancer. If you feel really down or unable to cope, then don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help. There’s no shame in that and you’ll receive the strength needed to care for your fur baby, too. 

2. Learn about your dog’s cancer

There are many types of cancer that are common in dogs including: 

  • Melanoma
  • Lymphoma
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Soft-tissue sarcomas

It can be helpful to learn about the type of cancer your fur baby has, and then learn some of the medical terminologies so you can better understand the doctors and technicians you may be working with. Knowledge can be calming, but it can also make you a more informed pet parent and advocate for your dog. 

3. Treatment options

Once your dog is diagnosed, it’s a great time to ask the vet any questions you may have. And if you have any feelings of doubt about the diagnosis, then a second opinion may be in order. A second opinion can put you at ease, even if the diagnosis is the same. This way you’ll know for sure your fur baby has cancer and the type will be confirmed. 

Next, you’ll need to discuss all treatment options with the vet. Some vets may not deal with cancer treatment and may refer you to a veterinary oncologist who specializes in dogs. That’s OK. A vet oncologist will stay with you throughout treatment and support both you and your dog during this time. In fact, some vet oncologists even provide a support team that works with you and your fur baby. This gives you both all the support needed at this time. 

There are many types of cancer treatments for canine cancers. Some involve surgery, while others may require a combination of surgery and chemotherapy, radiation, etc. Your vet or the vet oncologist will help you find the best options, and which would be the right therapies for your dog’s cancer. 

One good point with chemotherapy is that most dogs tolerate it very well, better than their humans. Most chemo treatments for dogs also don’t cause a loss of hair. So, if your fur baby needs chemo treatments for his cancer, this may not affect him too much. 

Be sure to ask about the side effects of any treatment your dog may need to treat his cancer. Some dogs receiving chemo may vomit and have diarrhea, for instance. You’ll want to know about possible side effects so you’re prepared to deal with these if they happen.

4. Dog’s quality of life

The goal of cancer treatment in dogs is to ease pain and suffering, while extending life. Be aware that the treatment of cancer in dogs is usually not as aggressive as it is people. With that in mind, the goal now is to make your fur baby as comfortable as possible. Some cancers may be cured, while others go into remission. Some cancer may bring about the eventual end of life. However, before that happens, if your dog is still relatively happy and active, he has a good quality of life. 

For dogs that are very sick, in horrible pain, and unable to enjoy life, then it may be time to think of euthanasia. As a responsible pet parent, this is one of the last things you can do to make sure your canine companion doesn’t have to suffer unnecessarily. It’s a very hard decision to make, but one that really shows your love. 

5. Consider the financial commitment

when it comes to treating cancer in dogs, the expense can be considerable. Treatments can run anywhere from $3,000 all the way up to $10,000. If you have pet health insurance, then this may help with the expense of treatments. 

Another option is to see if the vet will allow you to pay for your fur baby’s care through installments over a period of months. This way, the cost can be divided out and managed a little easier. 

One more option is to consider using credit cards to pay for treatment, but keep in mind that this means taking on debt that can be quite expensive long-term. This should always be a last resort. 

6. Keep a positive outlook

It’s very difficult to stay positive when your precious fur baby has to deal with cancer. But your dog will also be able to pick up on your emotions, such as when you’re down, etc.

 Staying positive can help you and your fur baby through the treatments. If your dog is able, be sure to keep him active as much as possible. If he enjoys walks, then these may continue if the vet says it’s OK. You may also surprise your fur baby with his favorite treats once in a while. 

A cancer diagnosis is difficult when it comes, but there are some things you can do to make this time a little easier for you and your dog. Educate yourself and consider all the options that are available to your dog. Be sure to enjoy some positive, fun times with your fur baby as you both go on this journey. 

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