Unfortunately, cancer is diagnosed fairly often in companion animals. However, there have been many advances in the diagnosis and treatment of certain cancers, enabling many animals to live longer, quality lives. Some cancers in animals are curable.
Diagnosis usually involves diagnostic imaging and blood work, and often involves cytology and histopathology. It is important to identify the type of cancer and to stage it, i.e., determine if it has spread, before discussing treatment. Depending on the type of cancer, various treatment options are available. Some types respond well to surgery, while others require chemotherapy and yet others need specialized treatment such as radiation therapy or limb-sparing surgery, or perhaps a combination of these modalities.
We are experienced in administering several types of chemotherapy here. Animals undergoing chemotherapy, as a rule, don’t tend to have the marked side effects that we associate with chemotherapy in people. The most common side effect is an upset GI tract. We support our patients with medications and acupuncture to try and prevent or minimize nausea and diarrhea. Many chemotherapy drugs can cause a lowered white blood cell count, which can predispose the animals to infections. Therefore, we conduct a CBC prior to each chemotherapy treatment to try and minimize any side effects that may be caused by too low of a white blood cell count. Additionally, periodic serum chemistries are advised to monitor kidney and liver function during the course of chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy necessitates a trip Colorado State University Animal Cancer Center (http://www.csuanimalcancercenter.org) in Fort Collins. We are fortunate to have this facility close, as they provide on-going support for us and for our clients and patients. Additionally, they keep us informed of current clinical trials for which our patients may qualify.
Dealing with cancer in our companion animals can be difficult. We are here to support our patients and clients medically, surgically and emotionally, from diagnosis through treatment.
If you notice any of the common signs of cancer (growths, change in appetite or weight, sores that don’t heal, odors, persistent lameness, or difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating) please contact us. Early intervention gives us the best opportunity for prolonging life and preserving its quality.