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How Is Pet Cancer Treated?

Has your dog or cat been recently diagnosed with cancer? We’re so sorry to hear that. We understand it’s a trying and stressful time, but know that there may be hope for your pet. There are treatment options out there for many forms of cancer. Here are a few of them.


Chemotherapy is often used to treat cancer in humans, but it’s also a treatment option for cats and dogs. It’s a drug that works to kill off cancer cells. If your vet recommends this route, your pet will be monitored to ensure the treatment is working and not causing any serious side effects.

Many people worry about the chemotherapy drug affecting their pet’s quality of life. Fortunately, chemotherapy side effects in dogs and cats are less pronounced than they are in humans.

Chemotherapy for Cancer in Dogs

Chemotherapy is generally recommended for dogs suffering from lymphoma or for those whose cancers have spread, or metastasized, to other parts of their body. Most dogs have very minimal side effects from the treatment. You may notice:

  • Thinning of your pet’s fur
  • Temporary vomiting or diarrhea
  • Slight loss of appetite

Depending on how your dog reacts to chemotherapy, your veterinarian may change his dosage or drug to ensure your pet gets the most effective treatment for cancer. The amount and frequency your dog will need depends on the drug prescribed.

Chemotherapy for Cancer in Cats

Chemotherapy is also a cancer treatment option for cats. As with dogs, it is usually recommended for lymphoma. Studies have found that lymphoma generally reacts to chemotherapy and 75% of cats treated with it enter remission.

If your cat is on a chemotherapy treatment plan, he should get plenty of fluids and any other drugs prescribed, including nausea medication or prednisone. Side effects may include:

Radiation Therapy 

cat laying in pink blanket

Radiation treatment, or radiotherapy, is another route that pet owners have for treating a furry friend’s cancer. While chemotherapy is a treatment that travels over the entire body, radiation is localized to the cancer. It is most often used to reduce the size of a tumor or completely remove it when surgery is not an option.

This treatment option can be difficult to obtain as it’s less available than chemotherapy. Radiotherapy treatments are generally administered several times over a period of a few weeks. Your pet will require a general anesthetic to ensure he doesn’t move during the procedure.

Radiotherapy for Cancer in Dogs 

Tumors can cause pain, block bodily functions, and cause bleeding, all of which radiotherapy aims to correct in dogs with cancer. A study found that about 75% of dogs responded to radiation therapy. Looking closer at the numbers, it was found that there is a 67% chance a dog’s tumor will stop growing or shrink in size if radiotherapy is used.

Radiotherapy in Cats 

Radiotherapy is also a great option for cats, but it may be recommended that your cat stay with his veterinarian over the course of treatment. Radiotherapy requires repeat sessions over a few weeks, and travel to and from can put undue stress on your pet.

Radiation for cancer treatment in cats is more palliative care—geared towards maintaining quality of life—than a cure for cat cancer. It’s used to ensure they’re comfortable, but it can also be a highly effective and even potentially life-extending treatment when surgery is not available or an option.


When surgery is opted for, it is used to remove as much of a tumor as possible.

Surgery for Dog Cancer 

It’s possible that your vet recommends surgery and no other course of action if your dog is diagnosed with cancer, but this depends on the type of cancer your pet has. Surgery may be an option, for example, if your dog’s tumor is close to the skin or if it is very distinct. Before surgery can happen, your vet will check to ensure the cancer hasn’t spread.

Surgery for Cancer in Cats 

Surgery is also an option for cats and may be the only treatment your vet recommends at first. How well this approach works depends on the pet, but ideally it will stop his cancer from spreading. Your cat may have to stay at the veterinarian after surgery for monitoring and tests, and care will be needed after he returns home.

A Combination of Pet Cancer Treatments 

While your veterinarian may only prescribe one of these three treatment options for your dog or cat’s cancer, they may also use a combination approach. Radiotherapy, for example, is often used in conjunction with surgery or chemotherapy—as well as other drugs—to improve quality of life and boost the effectiveness of the radiation.

While surgery may be enough on its own, it could be prescribed before or after chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Your pet’s doctor might recommend chemotherapy but finds it isn’t having the results they wanted, so they may go on to suggest surgical options or additional radiotherapy treatment.

“Cancer” is a scary word, but there are treatment options available for your dog or cat. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery are often used together and with other treatments and drugs to ensure your pet is as comfortable as can be and moving down the road to recovery, if possible.

If you believe you have a pet with cancer, it’s important to take him to your veterinarian right away. At Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital, we can help your pet with pain management or refer him to schedule an appointment with Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital, simply call us at 281-693-7387.

13 Signs of Cancer in Dogs

14 Signs of Cancer in Cats

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The Team @ Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital

Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital serves Katy, TX and the surrounding areas with a dedication and passion for our animal friends that is unmatched. Our veterinarians are highly trained, experienced, and compassionate when it comes to giving your pet the care they deserve. If your companion is in need of emergency care, a dental cleaning, grooming, or just a check-up, we would love to see them! Call 281-693-7387 to make an appointment quickly and easily.

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