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Caring for Pets Diagnosed with Cancer

Did you know that 50% of dogs 10 years or older develop some form of cancer?  If cancer is caught early enough, almost half of all dogs diagnosed are able to recover from the condition. While this doesn’t make your dog or cat’s diagnosis any easier, staying positive during these times can be beneficial for the both of you.

As a pet owner, you want to do everything you can to not only keep your pet safe and comfortable but also to find a treatment that can help your furry friend to overcome this horrible disease.

Dog with Vet

While these times can be quite tough, there are things you can do to take care of your pet. There are also traditional and holistic veterinary services that can be used to treat your pet in hopes of curing cancer and using long-term treatment to prevent a recurrence of the disease.

Treating Pet Cancer with Traditional Treatments

When treating a dog or cat with cancer, there are a variety of traditional treatments that can be used. Western medicine typically involves the use of radiation, chemotherapy, and/or surgery. The best course for treating your pet will depend on a variety of factors, such as:

  • Type of cancer
  • Stage of cancer
  • If the cancer has spread
  • Age and health of your pet

Be sure to discuss the details of your pet's diagnosis with a veterinarian or a veterinary oncologist. In most cases, the best treatment involves surgery, which physically removes as much of the cancerous tumor as possible. If the cancer has spread, your vet may also recommend radiation therapy.

At our animal hospital in Fort Collins, we provide a surgery center to ensure that your dog or cat gets the care he or she needs.

How Pet Chemotherapy Works

Similarly to human chemotherapy, pet chemotherapy can be administered in a variety of ways. Chemo can be given orally, topically, intravenously, or even directly into the cancerous tumor. This form of treatment can either be used prior to surgery to shrink the size of the tumor or after surgery to kill any residual cancer cells.

Vet examining dog

While your pet is undergoing chemotherapy, you should expect some fatigue and potential coat thinning, depending on the breed. Most pets experience a decreased appetite and temporary gastrointestinal issues like vomiting or diarrhea.

Radiation Therapy

In the event that your pet's diagnosis doesn't qualify for surgery or chemotherapy, radiation may be used. This treatment option is available for tumors that cannot be surgically removed. Unlike chemotherapy, which is systemic and spreads throughout the body, radiation is localized to the location of the tumor.

Radiation is typically given once a day and can require up to 20 treatments. When undergoing radiation treatment, your pet will have to be sedated. Treatment can last up to two hours and may cause your pet to become fatigued or suffer from minor skin problems.

Treating Cancer Holistically

While traditional treatments work, your pet may benefit the most from a treatment regimen that involves both traditional and holistic veterinarian services. Holistic treatment focuses on whole-body health. As your pet is undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, it's important to focus on symptom reduction as well as ways to boost your pet's health.

One of the top factors that many pet owners and veterinarians forget about when treating cancer is nutrition. While your pet may be lacking an appetite, now is a great time to take a good look at what you feed your dog or cat. Switching your pet to a healthier and more wholesome diet can boost his health and improve his immune system.

Dietary Improvements

Commercial pet food is often made with fillers and other unhealthy ingredients that don't give your pet the vitamins and nutrients needed to stay healthy during cancer treatment. Consider switching your pet to a home-cooked diet, which allows you to know exactly what your dog or cat is eating.

Cat eating dietary food

Before switching to this type of diet, be sure to discuss it with your veterinarian. This allows you to come up with a healthy feeding plan that can keep your pet healthy inside and out. While making your pet’s meals at home can be time-consuming and expensive, focusing on nutrition will pay off in the long run.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine for pets that has proven to be beneficial during cancer treatment, as well as for promoting overall pet wellness. Acupuncture is non-invasive, safe, and has proven to be effective in treating a variety of symptoms and conditions. The treatment works by assisting the body in healing itself by affecting certain physiological changes such as:

  • Increased blood circulation
  • Nerve stimulation
  • Releasing endorphins and cortisol

If your pet undergoes surgery, acupuncture can be used for post-operative recovery for pain management. Acupuncture has also been used to improve comfort and recovery for pets that are undergoing cancer treatment.

Despite what many pet owners may think, acupuncture is well-tolerated by most dogs and cats. Once your pet settles down, the treatment causes them to become comfortable and highly relaxed. Look no further than Advanced Animal Care of Colorado for a veterinarian in Fort Collins that offers acupuncture for dogs, cats, and other pets.

What You Can Do at Home

Outside of the veterinarian’s office, there are many things you can do as a pet owner at home while your pet is undergoing cancer treatment.

Woman petting her cat

Stay Positive

Though this may be hard, one of the best things you can do after your pet has been diagnosed with cancer is to stay positive. We all know how most dogs and cats are able to pick up on our moods. If your pet detects sadness, he may believe that he did something wrong that is causing you to have those feelings. While being happy and staying positive is easier said than done, keeping a smile and thinking positively is important.

Create a Comfortable Environment

Most dogs and cats that are undergoing cancer treatment often have less energy and are much less active. This means that you'll want to make your home as accessible as possible. Consider moving food and water bowls closer to where your pet spends most of his time. If you own a cat, moving the litter box closer to your cat's bed makes life a little easier.

Since your pet will be taking plenty of naps, be sure to have soft bedding. This way, your pet is properly supported and comfortable while snoozing.

Help with Hygiene

This pertains mostly to cats, though dogs can also have hygiene issues when undergoing cancer treatment. Since your pet will likely be fatigued or even lethargic after treatment, you may need to provide extra washing and grooming. Most pets will pay much less attention to their hygiene when undergoing treatment.

Cat and dog together

Give Plenty of Attention

When we’re sick, we know how nice it feels to have someone come and spend time with us. While your dog or cat won’t be as rambunctious or playful as he usually is, be sure to give him or her plenty of attention. For some pet owners, this means spending a bit more time on the floor, but the tail wags and purrs are well worth it.

A Trusted Holistic Veterinarian

Has your pet been diagnosed with cancer? Interested in learning about holistic and alternative treatment options that can be useful during these times? If so, our office at Advanced Animal Care of Colorado is here to help. Call us at 970-818-5054 to schedule an appointment.

Sources

  1. https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/dogs-and-cancer-get-the-facts#1
  2. https://www.ivas.org/about-ivas/what-is-veterinary-acupuncture/
  3. https://www.petmd.com/dog/general-health/chemotherapy-dogs-everything-you-need-know

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