Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

In a previous pet cancer blog post, we discussed early warning signs of cancer to look for in your pet. So what happens when you notice one of those symptoms? The first step is to not hesitate or “wait it out.” If you notice anything irregular about your pet (physically, emotionally, or behaviorally), take them to your veterinarian. Not every sign of cancer manifests itself in an obvious way. This is also why we cannot stress enough the importance of doing annual preventive care checkups for your pet (twice a year for some older pets).

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is a confusing and overwhelming time. To help you understand what is involved in the diagnosing and staging process, here are some guidelines

How do veterinarians diagnose and treat cancer in pets?

1 – Confirm the Diagnosis

This step will confirm if your pet has cancer and, if so, what type of cancer he or she has. Testing may include one or more of the following: needle aspiration, biopsy, blood work, ultrasounds, etc.

2 – Stage the Cancer

Cancer staging shows the veterinarian if the cancer has metastasized, or spread, in the body. In some cases, they will know the stage of the cancer from the diagnostic process. In others, additional tests like a x-rays or ultrasound exams may be needed. Staging the cancer allows the veterinarian to determine the right treatment plan. 

3 – Consult with a Board-Certified Veterinary Oncologist

Our veterinarians are familiar with many of the most common forms of cancer and are able to manage your pet with surgical and chemotherapy options.  However in some cases of more unusual or difficult cancers, we may recommend referral to or a consultation with a veterinary oncologist.  This is always an option for any type of cancer.

Veterinary oncologists have specialized training and the latest information about new advances and treatment options. The oncologist will work with your primary care veterinarian throughout your pet’s treatment.

4 – Develop a Treatment Plan

Your veterinarian and/or oncologist will create a plan to treat the cancer, which may include the following, either alone or in combination:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Cryotherapy
  • Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)
  • Conventional Radiation Therapy (RT)
  • and more…

5 – Checkups

After your pet has received treatment, your primary care veterinarian will continue to evaluate the progress with regular follow-up checkups. You know your pet better than anyone; so don’t hesitate to reach out in between visits if something doesn’t seem right.

Hope for pets with cancer

As medical advances and technology continue to redefine what is possible, we hope you find it reassuring to know that, in many cases, cancer is a treatable disease – and in an increasing number of cases, it is potentially even curable.