The Big C in Pets

By Dr. Marisa Pasekoff, Managing Veterinarian

Cancer. You ask yourself how this could have happened and what you could have done differently to avoid this diagnosis. Unfortunately, often the answer is that this is all too common and likely you couldn’t have done anything to prevent it. Thankfully veterinary medicine has come a long way and a diagnosis of cancer isn’t what it used to be.

The onset of cancer and progression of signs tend to be fast. Whether it’s due to the animals’ instincts to hide illnesses or the aggressive nature of some cancers, we are often caught off guard. A simple visit for decreased appetite can turn into something much worse. Once the shock of the news wears off, this is the time to ask questions. What is the prognosis? What are my options? How will this affect my pet’s quality of life in the short and long term? Depending on the severity and urgency, there are usually multiple options how to proceed with treatment.

If time and finances permit, a second opinion with a board-certified oncologist is a good idea. These are veterinarians who have done additional years of schooling and training and who specialize in all things cancer related. Not only will they have a large amount of experience, but they also may know the latest treatments available.

Either your oncologist or your general practice veterinarian will likely discuss with you the option of medicine or surgery. Some general practices have chemotherapy offered at their hospitals, but most do not. Prednisone, which is a steroid, can be used like chemotherapy if given at high doses. Prednisone will not eliminate the cancer or put it into remission. The purpose of giving prednisone is to get your pet more comfortable and improve the quality of life. You should realize that prednisone has many side effects, including increased urination and sometimes aggression. Some cancers are treatable or manageable with surgery but some are only temporarily cured.

The most important thing is to ensure that your pet maintains a good quality of life. Thankfully your furbaby only knows the now and does not know what might happen days or weeks away. We understand this diagnosis is very difficult so if your pet is affected by cancer, feel free to reach out to our team at any time with questions.

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