Cancer Care

Things to Consider When Choosing a Cancer Treatment for Your Dog

happy golden retriever laying down with tongue sticking out while getting pet by its owner

There are a lot of different things to consider when choosing a cancer treatment for your dog. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself during the decision-making process:

Do I understand the available treatment options?

The first thing you should do is discuss all the appropriate treatment options with your veterinarian and/or oncologist. Each pet’s medical condition is unique, so understanding the pros and cons of each treatment is critical as well as understanding the goals of treatment. Unfortunately, we cannot cure most cancers in pets. Thus, choosing the best treatment options depends on a number of factors that you and your veterinarian can evaluate together.

Why am I considering treatment for my dog?

This question may seem unnecessary, but it’s helpful to clarify what you and your dog want to gain from cancer treatment. Sometimes, owners seek treatment to extend their dog’s life so that family members can say goodbye. Or a pet owner may just want to enhance the quality of their dog’s last few months. Keeping your answer in mind can help you stay grounded as you juggle the decisions related to your dog’s health.

Does my dog's personality agree with the treatment I’m choosing?

Not all treatments are right for each dog, so it’s important to consider how your dog will handle proposed treatments. An active, social dog probably won’t do well with a treatment that requires long periods of rest and quiet time. Dogs with anxiety about going to the veterinarian or riding in cars may not do well with frequent, intensive treatments at the vet’s office.

Does this treatment work with my family’s budget?

When presented with treatment options, you may find that the best treatment for your dog is the worst option for your budget. Regimens such as CHOP, the standard treatment for canine lymphoma, may not be realistic treatment options for many families due to cost.

It’s also possible that the first treatment you choose won’t help or that your dog gets sicker from the treatment. Ask yourself whether you have the flexibility to try different types of treatment if the first one doesn’t work.

Does this treatment work with my schedule?

As much as we love spending time with our beloved pet, it’s not always feasible with life’s other responsibilities. When considering different treatments, weigh the time commitment. How many times do you need to visit the veterinarian per week? For working pet owners, it’s likely more feasible to plan visits on weekends or in off-hours.

In addition to treatment time, you should also consider what your dog’s needs will be in between treatments. Do they need to be given medications at regular intervals throughout the day? Do they need more supervision than usual? Do you need someone to monitor your dog throughout the day to keep an eye on side effects?

What will my dog’s quality of life be?

While certain treatments may give you more time with your dog than others, that time could come at the cost of your dog’s quality of life. You are your dog’s number one advocate. As you weigh your options, keep in mind your dog’s quality of life.

As you face these decisions, you will encounter frustrating truths. For one, you will find that fulfilling one desire comes at the cost of fulfilling another. No treatment option will be perfect. Amidst these challenges, do not be afraid to ask your veterinarian questions. With the right guidance, you can trust yourself to pursue the most realistic and effective course of action.