Coping with Cancer

What You Need to Know

Cancer is extremely common in pets. While a diagnosis of cancer in a beloved pet can be devastating, it is equally important for owners to realise that many forms of cancer can be successfully treated or managed to provide the pet with an excellent quality of life. It is also important to realise that in pets, just as in people, that some types of cancer are now viewed as a chronic, rather than a terminal, disease. The best ways to fight cancer is early detection and prompt commencement of treatment.

Diagnosing Cancer

If cancer is suspected, it is very important for you and your veterinarian to have as much information as possible about your pet's health, to help guide serious decisions regarding treatment.

Your veterinarian may also want to stage your pet's cancer. Staging is the process of determining the aggressiveness of the tumour and extent of metastasis (tumour spread) throughout the body. This will assist your veterinarian in determining how advanced the cancer is and what the projected success rates of various treatments as well as the likely survivability times. As such, your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic procedures such as blood tests, fine-needle aspirates, biopsies, radiographs (x-rays), ultrasound studies or even exploratory surgery. As every patient and every cancer are different, your veterinarian will tailor a specific diagnostic plan that is suited to your pet. An accurate diagnosis and proper staging of a pet's cancer are essential in order to pursue the best treatment and achieve the best possible outcome.

Treating Cancer

Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation are generally well-tolerated by both canine and feline patients. When side effects occur, your veterinarian can prescribe anti-nausea and/or pain medications as well as nutritional support as needed, to keep your pet comfortable during treatment.

The goal of cancer treatment in pets is to provide the pet with the highest quality of life as possible. This means that in some cases, if the cancer is very advanced, your veterinarian may recommend palliative care only this seeks to keep your pet as comfortable as possible for as long as possible without pursuing more aggressive treatment options.

What You Can Do to Help Your Pet Cope


When to Consider Euthanasia

In the course of your pet's cancer care, you may realise that the “bad” days are starting to out-number the “good” days. When you feel that you have done the best that you can do for your pet in your personal circumstances, you may eventually need to consider euthanasia. Most owners struggle with the decision of euthanasia as while they do not wish to see a pet suffer further, at the same time, they do not want to deprive a pet of any remaining “good” days. Talk to your veterinarian and the veterinary team who, may be able to guide your through this impossibly difficult decision.

When this time approaches for you and your pet, be sure to keep the lines of communication with your veterinarian. Consult your veterinarian about your pet's medical status and learn what to expect in the days or weeks ahead. Monitor your pet closely for signs that he or she may be in discomfort, and discuss these signs with the veterinary team.

The decision to euthanise a pet is a serious decision that should not be made in haste or without careful thought. Although euthanasia is a very personal and private decision, ultimately, as a loving pet owner, you must trust yourself to make the bet decision for your pet. Finally, do make sure that you know what the practice's procedures are for an urgent euthanasia, both during business and after hours, if your pet suddenly takes a turn for the worse.


Please do not hesitate to contact the clinic (06) 3588675 if you have any questions or concerns. 
Parts of this information sheet have been adapted from the Vetlearn Compendium Care Guides.



Published by Cahill Animal Hospital on 21 May 2016
The team at Cahill Animal Hospital is here to provide you and your pet with the best possible medical, surgical and supportive care. Our motto "We care as much as you do" is a very important part of our day to day work. We are committed to providing you and your pet with the best options for care.

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