No pet parent wants to see their dog undergo cancer treatment. Yet, sometimes it's inevitable. If your pooch recently received a cancer diagnosis, you may wonder what's next. As a pet parent, your dog will need you more than ever. Below, we'll prepare dog owners for what happens during cancer treatment for dogs.

My dog has a cancer diagnosis. What do I do now?

Any dog owner who has a pet dealing with a specific type of cancer will understandably be upset, anxious, and fearful. These are normal reactions to have. You'll also have plenty of questions to ask your veterinarian. While it's estimated that six million dogs are diagnosed with cancer each year in America, the good news is a lot of cancers are treatable.

Your first step as a pet parent after your dog's cancer diagnosis is understanding their type of cancer. There are various forms of cancer your pet could be suffering from. For example, the most common cancers reported in dogs include:

  • melanoma;
  • lymphoma;
  • mast cell tumors;
  • bone cancer;
  • soft-tissue sarcomas.

Each cancer behaves differently and has its own set of symptoms and traits. Get as much information as possible from your vet or other verified sources. This will help you understand what to expect when it comes to cancer treatment for dogs, such as costs, pros, and cons.

Understanding cancer treatment for dogs: Options available

Once you understand the type of cancer you're dealing with, you must consider treatment options. Regarding cancer treatment for dogs, your veterinarian will guide you in the direction that'll give your pet the best chance of recovery. However, educating yourself on all the available options can help you exhaust all avenues before deciding which cancer treatment is right for your pooch.

Here are the most common cancer treatment options for dogs:

Surgery

If your dog was diagnosed with a single tumor or the cancer is localized to one area, it may be possible to treat their cancer through surgery. Many vets may suggest this as the first line of defense regarding cancer treatment for dogs—provided they can get clear margins on the tumor. Surgery can be effective in treating certain cancers. However, it doesn't guarantee your dog's cancer won't return at a later date. Read our tips on how to prepare your dog for surgery.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy treats blood-cell cancers, such as lymphoma, leukemia, or highly aggressive cancers. Your vet will prescribe a course of drugs designed to kill cancer cells. This course of cancer treatment for dogs lasts between six and twelve weeks. You can give oral chemotherapy drugs at home or by an intravenous drip.

Radiation

This form of cancer treatment for dogs is for those cancers where tumors are too inaccessible for surgery. A high dose of radiation is delivered directly into your dog's tumor during radiation therapy. This shrinks or destroys any cancer cells. Your dog will receive radiation therapy two to five times a week. This treatment option can last up to six weeks, depending on your pup's cancer severity.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is another viable cancer treatment option for dogs. This involves giving your dog medication orally, prompting their white blood cells to attack cancer cells. Immunotherapy builds a dog's immune system to identify and target cancer in the body. However, pet parents should know this treatment doesn't work alone. It can be good to combine immunotherapy with another treatment such as surgery.

Cryotherapy

Your vet may recommend cryotherapy for small, superficial tumors around the eyelids, mouth, and skin surface. This procedure involves using cold temperatures to kill cancer cells. Vets will use liquid nitrogen to spray the diseased tissue. Cryotherapy gives vets excellent control over targeted tissues and results in minimal complications. The vet will give your dog anesthesia as the procedure can be painful. Once the diseased tissue has been treated, the tissue will slowly die and fall away.

The financial costs of dog cancer treatment

It's no surprise that cancer treatment for dogs is expensive. Depending on the treatment option advised by your vet, pet parents could be spending upwards of $10,000. For example, a specialist visit to diagnose cancer could cost $1,500. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatment can range from $200 to $6000. And this isn't including medication. Painkillers and antibiotics could cost approximately $60 per month for the length of cancer treatment.

As mentioned, the cost of dog cancer treatment is hard to predict, especially as it's dependent on the severity and type of your pooch's cancer. One thing is clear: the cost of treatment is high. However, with affordable pet insurance, that doesn't have to be the case.  

Side effects: What can you and your pet expect?

Thankfully, in most cases, your dog copes better with cancer treatment and has fewer side effects than humans. Yet, they may experience physical struggles, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Some dogs can also experience a weakened immune system and suffer from dehydration after chemotherapy. Pet parents can also expect their dogs to lower energy levels throughout treatment.

Call your vet immediately if you notice any clinical signs that aren't a common side of dog cancer treatment. It could be due to their medication, so a physical evaluation is needed.

How to care for a dog going through cancer treatment

Besides medical intervention, there are ways pet parents can support their dog at home throughout cancer treatment. Your dog will require lifestyle changes. This could be adjusting what they eat and engaging in gentler activities.

For example, you might play a subdued game of tug-of-war or allow them to play fetch in a confined space. Additionally, making changes in your home could be helpful. If your dog's cancer makes it harder for them to move around, consider installing pet ramps.

One of the biggest parts of helping your dog feel comfortable at home is assessing their pain levels. Dogs are excellent at hiding any discomfort. However, if you notice signs such as limping, panting, or behavioral changes, this could mean they're suffering. Speak to your vet about the best way to manage their pain. Otherwise, giving them plenty of love and cuddles is highly recommended as part of their cancer treatment.

Pet insurance for dogs: Supporting your dog with every step

The dog cancer treatment journey as a pet parent can feel lonely. But it doesn't have to be with Wagmo's pet insurance for dogs. While we can't help you with the daily management of cancer treatment for dogs, we can cover the costs. As part of our dog insurance with wellness plans, we give you financial coverage for unexpected medical expenses.

With three deductible options to choose from and 100% co-insurance, we'll reimburse you for cancer treatment costs. Wagmo guarantees one of the fastest reimbursement periods in the industry. Simply upload your claim on our app, and we'll reimburse you within twenty-four hours. For more information on how we can support you, check out our Wagmo Insurance and Wagmo Wellness plans.