Once a definitive diagnosis has been made, there are several possible treatment options for pets with cancer. Many times, surgical removal of growths will cure the cancer. It is important for veterinary surgeons to make wide surgical margins to cure these types of cancers. (A surgical margin is the visible normal tissue or skin margin that is removed with the surgical excision of a tumor, growth, or malignancy.) Many skin tumors are cured with surgery alone. However, certain aggressive tumors often need other forms of treatment in order to maintain remission. The most common treatment for cancer in pets includes some form of drug or chemotherapy protocol, depending on the specific type of cancer. Chemotherapy is often carried out over many weeks and months. Some cancers need to be treated palliatively over the rest of your pet's life, while other cancers may be cured after a certain period of time.
Radiation is increasingly being used for tumors that cannot be completely removed by surgery. Since most pet owners are concerned with side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, veterinarians will often use other medications to reduce unwanted reactions. Rare potential side effects in pets treated with radiation include hair loss, skin color changes, and unusual hair growth. In pets treated with chemotherapy, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, weakness, hair loss, and rare toxicity of the bone marrow, bladder, and heart may occur.
Dietary and nutritional supplement holistic therapies can be helpful in a comprehensive cancer treatment program. Homeopathic and herbal remedies are also used to enhance immune function and your pet's well-being. It is best to consult with a veterinarian trained in homeopathy before using such treatments. Cryotherapy and synthetic retinoids are used in a limited number of cancers to help achieve disease remission.
Since many cancers thrive on a sugar-rich blood supply, feeding pets with cancer a low carbohydrate, high Omega 3 fatty acid, arginine-type diet is often recommended. There is speculation that when there is a high concentration of wheat, corn and sugar in your pet's diet, that the cancer growth is accelerated. In recent years, veterinary prescription diets specific for cancer management have been developed. Proper homemade diets, such as recipes found in books by Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PHD and Donald Strombeck, are highly superior to processed commercial diets. If feeding your pet this type of diet is not possible, natural low-grain pet food such as Wysong Anergen Dog & Cat Dry Food, Halo Dog Food - Adult Dry Dog Food, Halo Spot's Stew Sensitive Dry Cat Food, Wellness Super5Mix Dry Dog Food, and Wellness Canned Cat Food are acceptable alternatives. Adding antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits like blueberries to such pet diets is encouraged. Supplements such as Proanthozone, Oncosupport by Rx Vitamins, 4Life Transfer Factor, K9 Immunity, PolyMVA, and Maitake DMG are also wonderful in many cancer cases. Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation is also recommended for most cancers. Coenzyme Q-10 supplementation such as that found in Cell Advance (for dogs) has also been shown to lessen the side effects of certain types of chemotherapeutic agents.
Veterinarians often utilize multiple drugs to successfully control pain in our pets. The first group of commonly prescribed medications for mild to moderate pain are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Rimadyl, and Previcox. Weaker opioid medications such as Tramadol also may be added to enhance pain control. Stronger opioid medications such as morphine and Buprenex are used when moderate to severe pain is present. Finally, many veterinarians will utilize local nerve blocks or anesthetics including Fentanyl skin patches in cases of strong pain. General nursing care and comfortable pet bedding for your dog or cat is also critical in these cases. Holistic therapies including acupuncture and homeopathy as well as massage and physical therapy can all play roles in chronic pain management. Many holistic veterinarians also utilize nutritional and dietary therapies for cancer in pets.
Depending on the type of cancer and method of treatment, follow-ups may be done as frequently as every week or two weeks initially, and then after a month or two, be extended to every few months. It is important to realize that even pets with cancer in total remission should maintain a lifestyle free of emotional and toxic physical stress. Vaccination should be avoided unless required by law, such as a rabies vaccination. Natural diets and flea and heartworm preventative protocols should be considered. Even in pets cured of cancer, veterinary exams are recommended at least twice a year so that any relapse can be identified early in order to prevent future suffering and even death.