Animal Medical CenterCompassionate Veterinary Care for Pet Cancer Patients
At Animal Medical Center, we understand that a diagnosis of cancer can be frightening, giving rise to feelings of overwhelming fear, loss of control, and hopelessness. When facing a diagnosis of cancer in a beloved pet, we must make important and life-changing decisions for creatures that rely totally on our judgments. Our goal is to assist you in providing the quality and dignity of life we know your pet deserves.
Cancer is basically the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells within the body. These cells may form masses or tumors, creating a variety of painful and serious problems. Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs and cats over 10 years of age.
One of the first steps in facing cancer is to dispel the myths of the disease and treatment and seek the most appropriate care. Within the last 10 years, tremendous advances have been made that result in improved response rate, disease-free intervals, and survival times of canine and feline cancer patients. Despite these great strides, many people are unaware that a large percentage of pets with cancer can be cured or at least rendered free of their diseases for significant periods of time.
The Causes and Signs of Cancer
There are many factors that can influence the likelihood of your pet developing cancer, such as:
- Age—Nearly half of all dogs over 10 years old will develop cancer
- Breed—Certain tumors are more common in specific dog breeds, such as skin tumors in Boxers, tumors of the spleen in German shepherds, and bone cancer in giant breeds
- Gender—Some cancers develop under the influence of sex hormones and spaying or neutering your pet decreases the chances of those types of cancers
- Environment—Exposure to chemicals, such as pesticides and herbicides, and radiation influence the likelihood of cancer
Due to the complex nature of cancer, many different signs may indicate the presence of the disease. The following are some of the most common signs:
- Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
- Sores that do not heal
- Weight loss
- Changes in appetite
- Bleeding or discharge from any body orifice
- Offensive odor
- Difficulty eating, swallowing, or breathing
- Loss of stamina
- Persistent lameness or stiffness
- Difficulty in urinating or defecating
Cancer therapy is directed toward the tumor, yet the patient and his or her quality of life must always be kept in mind. The tumor can be addressed with one of two approaches:
- Curative intent
- Palliative intent
Both approaches may involve the use of multiple treatments completed at our animal hospital such as chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, nutritional management, and immuno-stimulating therapy.
Curative intent often involves the use of many of the above treatments to rid the body of cancer and provide the longest quantity of life.
Palliative intent is a therapeutic approach designed to improve quality of life without necessarily increasing survival time. In palliative therapy, support of the patient is imperative.
Because most cancer patients are also geriatric patients, attention must be paid to underlying diseases such as kidney failure, liver disease, dental disease, or heart disease. In most cases, our primary concerns are pain and appetite. For those tumors that induce pain, control is essential. In addition, treatment for gastrointestinal disorders, dehydration, anemia, leukopenia (decreased amount of white blood cells), sepsis, and other conditions that may be associated with treatment or the tumor itself must be provided. Many people believe a good quality of life is more important than longevity. When both of these can be achieved, we have the ultimate success.
Cancer treatment is not easy. Once we have dispelled the myths and the preconceived notions about the toxicity and efficacy of cancer treatment, we can then move on to helping your pet.
Compassionate care is the single most important consideration in cancer medicine, accomplished most effectively by a trusted veterinary health care team. The staff members at Animal Medical Center know they play a vital role in the care of the cancer patient, you, and your family. Our veterinary health care team will actively include you in this treatment process through education and empowerment, incorporating your treatment preferences into each step, from assessment through ongoing care.
Care of a patient with cancer requires unique skills, knowledge, drugs, procedures, and philosophies. Our animal hospital is dedicated to an aggressive continuing education program for all our staff to maximize the care and outcomes of our patients with cancer. In most instances, your pet’s care will involve a number of specialists in the areas of radiology, oncology, and histopathology.
We pledge ongoing communication with you to help you with your feelings of fear, despair, and lack of control. We’ll do our best to help you make clear and thoughtful decisions ahead of the emotions, with your pet’s wellbeing and quality of life foremost.
While cancer is the most curable of all chronic diseases, death due to the tumor or euthanasia is still ever present. We pledge to have open and frank discussions about euthanasia and options for the care of your pet’s remains. Never forget that our goal is compassionate care for you and your pet.