Making Decisions Around Cancer Treatment and Costs

Consider Various Treatments

I am an options kind of person. Only once in a blue moon would I tell a dog or cat owner how to treat their pet with cancer. Instead, I like to outline the treatment options available for their pet’s tumor, and then discuss how each one ranks in terms of survival, anticipated side effects and, yes, cost.

Here is how a typical discussion goes for a pet with lymph node cancer, technically called lymphoma. This kind of cancer cannot be cured in dogs and cats, but treatment can improve both the quality and quantity of time you and your family have with your pet.

Option 1 is not to treat the cancer, and the pet will live only a couple of months.

Option 2 is a deluxe multidrug chemotherapy protocol that can give pets a good quality of life on average for about one year. With option 2, I will need to see my client approximately 30 times in that year. It is the most expensive treatment option, but it offers the best chance for your pet's long-term survival.

Option 3, for dogs with lymphoma, is treatment with a single drug that has a good chance of inducing remission, costs less, requires fewer visits and may have a lower risk of side effects. Survival time will not be as long as with the deluxe protocol.

Then we come to option 4. Sometimes pets with lymphoma are so sick, I take a big gulp and discuss euthanasia the first time I meet the pet’s family.

Flexibility Is Key

Even though the cost of cancer therapy in pets can be high because veterinary oncologists use some of the same drugs that human cancer specialists use,veterinarians are flexible folks. We understand how to use old and new drugs as well as costly and inexpensive drugs to help you get every minute of quality time you and your pet deserve — in a way that makes sense for your family.


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