If your dog lives to be 10 or more, there’s a 50 percent chance you’ll be faced with a dilemma. What will you do if he or she is diagnosed with cancer?
This epidemic has hit the canine world like a ton of bricks. Certain breeds are more prone to cancer than others, although this fact doesn’t fully explain why we are now seeing so many malignancies.
Learning your dog has cancer is, undoubtedly, a devastating experience. It’s one our family is dealing with now. Recently, our 16-year-old Cocker spaniel was diagnosed with a probable malignancy. I say “probable” because we opted not to do a biopsy, and instead just use natural remedies.
But you have the right to research all of your options, not just the ones potentially recommended by your vet. Unless the vet is approaching things from a holistic angle, the likely suggestions will be chemotherapy and/or radiation. But this treatment is not without risk, to your dog and possibly to you and your family as well.
Effectiveness of Chemotherapy in Dogs
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How well does chemo work, as opposed to other methods, which are non toxic? We really don’t know, because there’s been not nearly enough research into canine alternative medicine.
Will drug therapy extend the life of a pet that was pretty much asymptomatic, except, perhaps, for a lump discovered during a routine exam? What would happen if the lump was just left alone, and not biopsied? Would it grow and eventually jeopardize the dog’s health? Or, would it stay encapsulated and do no harm?
Do you take a different approach with an old dog, compared to a young dog? With our dog, there’s no getting around the fact that he’s 16. At some point, he’s no longer going to be with us, cancer or not. He has a heart murmur and he seems to have dementia as well. Putting him through conventional cancer treatments, with an uncertain outcome, doesn’t seem a wise course of action. Plus, we believe he’s much better off with natural remedies to support his immune system.
Does Dog Chemotherapy Work?
This information is very hard to obtain. That’s because the websites that appear on the first pages of search results are the ones that contain glowing information about the wonders of canine cancer treatments.
However, I have read from reliable sources that certain types of cancer, such as lymphoma, do respond better to chemo than other kinds of cancer. But most of the time chemotherapy will not lead to a cure. This is something you need to know going into it. Whether it will extend your dog’s life is something I can’t tell you. I honestly couldn’t find good information. You’ll have to ask your vet point blank what the cure rate is.
You should also know that in humans, it’s widely known that chemotherapy is not considered curative for metastatic breast and lung cancer.
Price of Dog Chemotherapy
As with human chemotherapy, which is a big earner for both the pharmaceutical firms, as well as oncologists, which sell their drugs directly to patients (at a markup), there’s a distinct business element in animal oncology.
Canine oncology is exceedingly expensive, and many people cannot afford these out-of-pocket costs. In addition to the costly drugs, you may also have to pay for consultations, hospitalizations, laboratory services, radiation oncology, body scans and frequent vet visits.
Your veterinarian will be advising you, but you should be aware of a potential inherent conflict of interest, because treating a sick dog is potentially so profitable. (So feel free to seek a second opinion. Or even a third opinion.) Your vet may also refer you to an animal medical center. Our vet said that’s what we’d need to do if we wanted to go for conventional treatment.
Dog Chemotherapy Side Effects
Dogs do receive different protocols than humans. Veterinarians try to minimize unpleasant side effects, so the animal does not suffer nausea or vomiting. However, canine chemo is not something to enter into lightly, especially if you have small children in the house. (In my next post, I’ll discuss how this therapy poses a potential risk to pet owners.)
Chemotherapy drugs, by their very nature, are toxic, and they will be excreted in the saliva, urine and feces.
As you can guess, I am not a big fan of canine chemo and I’d never go down that road with my relatively healthy 16-year-old pup. Please understand I’m not giving medical advice here. I’m not a vet, just a concerned “dog Mom.”
Should I Give Chemotherapy To My Dog?
So all I can do is tell you what I’d do if my own dog developed cancer. First, I’d seek out a holistic integrative vet, whom would work to improve his overall, general health. I’d also make sure all the food he ate was organic and we’d also give him some herbal remedies, such as Ojibwa tea. Please check with a holistic vet before giving a dog any type of herbal supplement. He or she should have the final say on herbal remedies. Never give herbs or natural remedies to young puppies or to a pregnant dog.
Update: I wrote the above paragraph more than three years ago. At the time my dog was healthy. But elderly. Now that he has cancer, we’re doing all of that. Plus we’re giving him medicinal mushrooms to help boost his immune system. We’re also using homeopathic remedies in an attempt to shrink the tumor.