Breakthroughs in veterinarian medicine across wellness, trauma, infections and surgery have led to our pets surviving more conditions and living longer. The extended life of a pet consequently provides an increased chance for developing other issues, including cancer. One in four domesticated dogs in the United States will die of cancer, and that number increases to almost one in two for dogs who reach the age of 10.

Owners can take a proactive role in identifying cancer in their pets. Skin tumors, the most common cancer in dogs and cats, can be easily felt while spending quality time your pet.   Middle to older aged animals may display vague signs that including vomiting, lethargy, weight loss, lameness, or coughing, which can all be linked to cancers of internal organs.

The smaller the tumor the more effective therapy will be against it, so never just watch a lump on your pet. If your pet is experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should bring your animal to the nearest VCA veterinarian.

If your pet is diagnosed with a cancer, ask your VCA veterinarian for a referral to the nearest veterinarian oncologist. Veterinary oncologists are veterinarians who have done 3-4 years of additional training in cancer diagnosis and treatment. VCA has more than 10 veterinary oncologists nationwide who are skilled at evaluating, treating and researching cancer in pets.

A cancer diagnosis comes with a variety of treatment options:

  • Surgery: Typically a first line of treatment as it can offer a cure for many tumors if they are completely removed.
  • Radiation: The least used treatment modality in veterinary oncology because of the lack of radiation units across the country. However, it is a great second line option when surgery is ineffective or incomplete.  VCA currently has four hospitals across the country with radiation facilities.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy use in veterinary medicine is very different than the perception of cancer treatment in human medicine.  Much lower dosages are used as quality of life is most important. Approximately 90% of dogs and cats will have little to no obvious side effects from their treatments; thus allowing our pets to be at home, feeling great, with their loved ones.
  • Clinical Trials: Oncology has our own breakthroughs in cancer treatment and many veterinary oncologists are able to offer pet owners clinical trials for new cancer therapies.

If you have additional questions about cancer in pets please visit the following links.

– Zachary M. Wright, DVM DACVIM (oncology), Staff Oncologist and Intern Director at VCA Veterinary Care Referral Center in Albuquerque, NM. Read more from Dr. Wright and learn about his hospital’s cancer treatment programs: