Cancer: Treatment

Cancer Quicklinks


Treatment for dog cancer of any type, form or in any system primarily focuses on the complete eradication of uncontrolled, persistent & proliferate cellular growth. Surgical operations, chemotherapeutical agents and radiation therapy are the three main options for treating a dog cancer. Canine alternative cancer treatments are available, but cannot be considered a cure and are dependent on how your individual dog reacts.

In most cases the goal for dog cancer treatment is the complete removal of cancerous cells remains unachievable due to quick, progressive and diffusible (spreading deep into the tissue) nature of cancerous cells. Owners of a dog should be aware of the nature of cancer, treatment options, prognosis and expectations of a treatment plan prior to proceeding. It is important to consider the impact of treatment on your dog's quality of life, not to mention the expense and time required, and odds of a recovery.

Listen to Podcast on Cancer in Pets

Here's a helpful podcast on cancer in pets from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Surgical options for Dog Cancer Treatment:

Surgery is considered the most effective dog cancer treatment option. Surgery not only helps in eliminating the cancerous cells, but is also one of most important tools used to diagnose many cancers prior to treatment, like laporatomy in case of dog pancreatic cancer.

Indications for Surgery in dog cancer treatment:

  1. To form a diagnosis, a sample from the diseased area may be needed for testing. Test types include biopsy, needle excision and incision.
  2. Complete surgical removal is indicated when there is a mass of cancerous cellular growth that can be removed. Tumors such as the case of several benign types of tumors which are referred to as being encapsulated, are candidates for a surgical approach.
  3. Complete and partial amputation of organs in order to not only remove any cancerous growth, but also to manage severe pain. Pain in many cases may lead to shock, therefore surgical amputation is necessary.
  4. Surgical procedures may be indicated along with other options such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Failure of Surgical options in dog cancer treatment:

Surgery in many cases may fail due to:

Radiation Therapy for Dog Cancer Treatment:

The application of different approaches to radiation such as X – Rays, Electrons & Gamma Rays are all common options to restrict cancerous cellular growth. In most cases radiation therapy has proven to be effective, but possess severe adverse side effects.

dog cancer treatment
Dog Cancer Treatment Radiation Therapy Patient.  This type of canine cancer treatment is often part of the treatment plan for mast cell tumors , soft tissue sarcomas, oral tumors- acanthomaous epulis, squamous cell carcinoma, fibrosarcoma, melanoma, dog nasal tumors and canine brain tumors
Source: Washington State University

Indications for radiation therapy in treating canine cancer:

  1. Deep and inaccessible cancerous tissues, which are harder to eradicate through surgery may be treated with radiation, such as cancers that are found deep in the chest, abdomen and pelvis.
  2. Diffused form of cancer like carcinomas that can only be eradicated through radiation, as in most cases surgical options fail.
  3. Radiation in combination with surgery are a more effective and reliable way to treat dog cancers.

Adverse effects of Radiation therapy in Dog Cancer Treatment:

Radiation therapy may cause severe damage to normally growing cellular populations, like those of epithelial (outer layer of the skin) and skin tissues. In many cases the development of secondary cancers are reported due to the high intensity of the radiation application, like in transmissible venereal tumors. The application of intense radiation may result in secondary dog testicular cancer. Radiation therapy may cause acute necrosis (cell death) of various soft and hard tissues. Osteonecrosis (bone cell death), retinal degeneration (eye cell death) & neural necrosis (brain cell death) are some of the examples.

Chemotherapy for Dog Cancer Treatment:

Chemotherapeutical agents used to treat dog cancers have different properties, mode of action and degree of response. All of these factors are used to calculate their administration and the potential results.

In most cases where surgical options and radiation therapy have proven limited, chemotherapy has emerged as the only option to eradicate cancer despite the potential for severe adverse side effects. Different anti-cancer chemotherapy drugs have been identified for this purpose which include alkylating agents, anti – metabolites, anti–tumor antibiotics and vinca alkaloids.

Precise dose calculation and careful handling of various anti-cancer drugs is required. Many anti-cancer drugs like vinca alkaloids can trigger a severe and irreversible cancerous cell division if an inappropriate dose is administered. Similarly several anti-tumor antibiotics have adverse effects on the gastrointestinal tract, causing vomiting, diarrhea & irreversible problems with the intestinal tissues.

Use of chemotherapeutical agents in combination has proven effective. Dog owners consult with a veterinary oncologist to calculate the correct dose and supervise the administration of chemotherapeutical agents.

Advanced Techniques to Treat dog Cancer:

Along with the three primary options i.e. surgery, radiation & use of anti cancer drugs, many other options are now in experimental stages to treat dog cancers. These options include genomics & proteomics.

Gene therapy & gene replacement are some of the examples, though not practical yet. There is hope that these types of approaches will replace conventional ways to treat canine cancer in the future.

In addition, there are constantly clinical trials being conducted that may provide new and helpful information and opportunities at low or no cost. A good source for information is the Veterinary Cancer Society.

Dog Cancer Treatment and Nutrition

Any dog cancer treatment plan includes the need to maintain a balanced diet. Malnutrition is being an important factor to avoid. Most veterinarians prefer that dog's stay with a high quality commercial diet, since these contain the correct ratios of needed nutrients. For those considering a homemade diet, such as those found on the internet, be cautious and if you want to go this route, consult with a veterinary nutritionist to make sure you are not missing a key nutrient.

Regarding supplements for dog cancer treatment, there has been a significant amount written about anti-oxidants (vitamin c and vitamin 3) and protecting cells, particularly during chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Researchers are not clear if anti-oxidant supplementation works to protect health cells AND cells that are targeted by the treatment to be killed. Discuss the latest research with a veterinary oncologist. The best approach may be to rely on anti-oxidants that have already been added to commercial foods.

There are two supplements that can help, yet not interfere with the effectiveness of treatment. These are Omega 3 fish oil and L-arginine (one source is the product Wysong Call of the Wild for Dogs and Cats). Be sure to not use flax seed oil as a substitute for fish oil as its effectiveness has not been proven. If your dog rejects the smell, there are unscented versions available.

Purchase products that are formulated for dogs and only provide under the direction of your veterinarian. It is thought that L-arginine lowers cytokines levels in the blood. Cytokines are thought to promote cancer cell growth.

Homeopathic Remedies -
A Canine Alternative Cancer Treatment Approach

The thinking behind homeopathic remedies for alternative dog cancer treatment is that they contain herbs that a wild dog would naturally find in the environment to help keep itself healthy or would seek out instinctually when ill. In the past several years, many herbs have been studied for the supportive properties on the immune system and possible positive impact on different types of canine cancer. Importantly, homeopathic remedies are not considered a cure, but a supportive approach. Each of the ingredients that has some level of clinical support is described here. They are combined and available in the product C-Caps Formula

Again, consult with your veterinarian when trying this dog cancer treatment approach. While not a cure, products like C-Caps Formula could be part of an overall treatment plan.