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Learning that your pet has cancer is a frightening and heart-breaking experience. Fortunately, the continued evolution of veterinary medicine means that pets today have a better chance of being successfully treated for cancer than they did before. This means that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean that there is nothing that you can do for your precious pet – far from it.
Exactly what treatment your pet will be offered after a cancer diagnosis will depend on the type and severity of cancer that she has. The good news is that there are a number of different options available, meaning that it is likely that your veterinary oncologist will be able to find a treatment that is suitable for your pet.
Here are some of the possible treatments for your pet that you may be recommended to try following a cancer diagnosis.
Most people have heard of chemotherapy and know it to be a largely successful treatment for cancer cells. It can be used in conjunction with other treatments or standalone. Chemotherapy targets and destroys cells within the body. However, since anti-cancer drugs cannot usually tell the difference between cancerous and healthy cells, there is usually a small element of normal cells being affected by the treatment too, although they can often repair themselves fairly well.
This treatment can be administered orally in the form of a chewable tablet or via injection. Unfortunately, chemotherapy does usually result in a number of unpleasant side effects. These include fever, vomiting and diarrhea, bladder discomfort, hair loss and, in some instances, heart disease.
Immunotherapy is a well-known human treatment for cancer that is now being extended to pets too. This treatment utilizes certain parts of your pet’s immune system to fight various types of diseases, including cancer. Although there are various types of immunotherapy available, there are primarily two types used to treat cancer in pets. These are monoclonal antibodies and cancer vaccines. Other non-specific immunotherapies may also boost your pet’s immune system so that she is better able to fight off cancer cells. Immunotherapy is generally considered to be very safe and is well tolerated by the majority of animals.
Small molecule therapy isn’t very well known, but it has shown that it can potentially be effective at destroying cancer cells. It involves the use of specific drugs that are able to enter cells easily because they have a low molecular weight, hence the term ‘small molecule therapy’. Once inside, the drugs can affect other molecules, such as proteins, and may potentially cause cancer cells to die.
Radiation therapy is another fairly well-known cancer treatment that is now being extended to pets as well as humans. Radiation therapy involves the use of high-energy beams of light to kill cancer cells and can be targeted at specific areas of your pet’s body to minimize the effect it has on other tissues. Radiation therapy is given over a number of different planned sessions, after which time the cancer cells will have hopefully shrunk or disappeared completely.
Again, there a number of side effects to this type of treatment including localized hair loss, sore skin, and generalized pain. However, these are usually only temporary and disappear after treatment finishes.
Palliative radiation therapy refers to the use of radiation not to treat cancer, but to shrink the existing cancer cells, slow the growth of cancer and/or control the symptoms it is causing. This is because, in some instances, jut shrinking a tumor can provide sufficient relief from pain and other associated symptoms so that your pet can enjoy a better quality of life. Palliative radiation therapy is usually recommended where your pet has advanced cancer, or cancer has metastasized (spread) to another part of her body and where treatment to eliminate cancer entirely is likely to be unsuccessful.
Unsurprisingly, one of the most effective ways of treating any form of cancer is to remove it from your pet’s body. Complete cancer removal is ideal, but obviously, this isn’t always possible. This form of surgery is most successful when the cancerous cells have remained in a specific location and haven’t spread, but even then, surgery is often combined with another therapy such as chemotherapy or radiation to ensure that all parts of cancer have been removed or destroyed.
If your pet is undergoing surgery for cancer removal, this will almost certainly be done under general anesthetic and she will need time to rest and recover. Although surgery isn’t without its own risks, it will only be performed if it is in the best interests of your pet and the potential benefits outweigh the risks involved.
If you would like to find out more about cancer treatments for pets, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our compassion, knowledgeable and experienced veterinary team by calling the Central Animal Hospital in St Petersburg, FL today (727) 521-3518.