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Healthy Dogs

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Dogs and Cancer: Get the Facts

A vet answers 10 commonly asked questions about cancer in dogs.


Q: What kinds of treatments are available for dogs with cancer?

A: We have pretty much all the options that are available to people. There’s surgery, obviously. Radiation therapy is available in about 40 facilities around the country. Chemotherapy has become commonplace. Now some places are even doing research and clinical treatment of patients with immunotherapy tumor vaccines, where we’re using the immune system to stimulate the destruction of the cancer.

Q: The FDA approved the first drug for treating canine cancer in dogs in June 2009. What other advancements will we be seeing in the treatment of canine cancers?

A: There have been several things, like the tumor vaccine I just mentioned. There is a new vaccine against oral melanomas, the most common oral tumor. Radiation therapy and technology is expanding so that the machines that we’re using can now treat brain tumors and nasal tumors and deep-seated tumors that previously we couldn’t access surgically.

Veterinary oncology has progressed amazingly in the past two decades. Twenty years ago, most people didn’t even know dogs got cancer. Today it’s common to find people whose dogs have been treated for cancer. There are so many more facilities for treating canine cancer now, and there are veterinarians who do nothing but treat cancer.

Q: What does it cost to treat a dog with cancer?

A: It varies. There’s the diagnostic testing that’s needed prior to doing any kind of therapy, and that can range from $200 to $1,000. Then treating the cancer can range from a simple surgery for $1,000 all the way up to $15,000 if we’re dealing with something complicated that also needs radiation therapy and chemotherapy along with the surgery. They’re even doing bone marrow transplants for dogs with lymphoma. That can be very expensive.

(Note: These are costs for top-level treatment at a specialist hospital. Prices for less involved options at a general veterinary practice may be much less. Costs may also vary a lot depending on where you live.)

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