Cancer care in dogs may be one of the most frightening things you may ever face as an owner.
If you are faced with this overbearing task, there are some very important facts to understand, several signs you can watch for, as well as three major rules you should follow.
If you understand these factors and treat your dog with as much love and affection as you can, you can help them through this ordeal.
If it is a type of cancer that cannot successfully be treated, although it may devastate you emotionally, you can rest in the fact that you did do everything you could for them.
Cancer care in dogs has some very interesting facts. The first is that not all forms of cancer that attacks your dog will be painful.
However, you will also have to remember that dogs by their very nature will try to hide any pain that they are showing, as this is inbreed in most every bred.
There have been several studies that have shown that cancer in humans is painful to less than 50 percent of the people that have first been diagnosed.
However, that number jumps to over 90 percent as the cancer advances, especially if it is terminal.
Your dog may be no different when it comes to feeling pain, but there is another fact when dealing with cancer.
There has been very little research done by the veterinary community on the pain that is associated with cancer in dogs.
However, it is widely held that dogs will feel the same amount of pain that humans do.
In fact, cancer care in dogs and managing the pain is now becoming a very important topic in this community, which is long overdue.
The pain that dogs will actually experience can vary tremendously from dog to dog, as there will be several underlying factors.
However, your dog will may not only experience pain from the tumors themselves, they will also feel pain from any type of surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation treatments.
If the pain is left untreated, it will not only increase, it will also diminish their quality of life very rapidly, which is the last thing you want to happen.
Cancer care in dogs has to start as soon as the cancer is discovered, and the sooner the better.
If this is done very quickly, not only can serious pain be prevented, the pain that does exist can be managed much better by you and your veterinarian.
The key to all of this will be to understand what to look for as indicators or signs of pain.
The first indicator of pain in your dog is any type of change in their normal behavior. Although this can easily be dismissed as your dog being slightly under the weather, it can also be the first signs of cancer.
If your dog suddenly does not want to go for a walk and they normally cannot wait to go, something is not right.
If they also start to hide or suddenly do not want to interact, this is also a real warning sign.
However, there are several other warning signs.
They include your dog suddenly becoming very reluctant to move, demonstrating any type of lameness, or laying in one spot for extended periods of time.
A sudden change of appetite is also a warning sign as is a sudden change of attitude.
If your dog has always been very sociable and friendly and suddenly starts to growl when touched or the complete opposite, very shy, these are also warning signals.
If your dog cries out when you touch a part of their body or growls and runs away, it is time for you to react very quickly.
Cancer care in dogs has three very important rules or factors when dealing with pain management. Pain in your dog will be divided in two different forms; acute and chronic.
If it is acute pain affects your dog, it will usually be very short in duration and can last for just a couple of days or only hours in some cases.
This can easily occur after some form of treatment or therapy, but will usually subside altogether or become less intense.
Chronic pain, however, is an entirely different subject, and although both will need to be managed, chronic pain is the major focus.
Cancer care in dog’s first major rule is to not let them hurt and this is critical to both their survival as well as how long they may live if it is terminal.
Now that pain management has been brought to the forefront with cancer in dogs, there is a lot of concern how the pain may become more intense.
As soon as your dog demonstrates any pain, you need to relieve it as quickly as possible.
This can be done by a local anesthesia given by your professional when the pain can be identified to a certain area of their body, or pain relieving medications can be used.
You should request fentanyl patches for this method and they are applied to your dog’s skin and very slowing and steadily release active pain relieving ingredients.
Cancer care in dogs will also include oral pain relievers which are extremely effective if the pain is considered mild.
It will also be extremely important once your dog has undergone surgery, to implement these procedures as quickly as possible.
If they are not, demand to know why.
It will also be very important to handle your dog very gently and protect them from another dog, if you have one in your home, until they can settle back in.
Cancer care in dog’s second rule is also extremely important; do not let them vomit.
There are some owners that will claim that vomiting is a natural aspect of a dog’s immune system, especially after surgery, but this is simply not true.
In fact, vomiting as well as nausea in dogs after surgery is considered very uncommon, and your veterinarian will advise you of this as one of their first topics after the surgery.
If your dog does start to vomit, you need to react as quickly as possible, and be prepared just in case it does happen with calming medications.
If your dog becomes dehydration, you will not have to worry about their cancer recovery, as they will not survive the dehydration in most cases.
Cancer care in dogs third rule is to not let them starve; if they cannot or will not eat, you need to force the issue. The first two issues are very important, but this is critical.
If you need to stimulate their appetite using medication, do it. You can also warm up their food and tantalize them with whatever their favorite food or treat is.
Dogs are still dogs and even when recovering from cancer, they will love to eat and you may just need to jump start the process.
However, if for some reason they do not, you will have to request they are fed via a stomach tube until they are stabilized.
Once stabilized and they start to eat, you will need to modify their diet to prevent any further weight loss.
This will do two things; it will positively increase their body’s reaction to chemotherapy, and decrease the adverse effects of radiation therapy if it has been used.
You will also need to limit the amount of simple carbohydrates, and make sure they have adequate amounts of highly digestible proteins.
You may also have to supplement amino acids in most cases, as well as Omega 3 fatty acids. These acids, in addition to their diet modifications, are critical in this third step.
Cancer care in dogs may be one of the toughest things you ever go through as an owner. In some cases, you dog may not make it, but in the majority of cases they will.
In order for them to survive this potential killer, you need to identify it very quickly by understanding the signs of pain and then follow the three rules of cancer care for your dog.
Mitchener, K. The commandments of cancer care. Presented at the 2002 Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association Convention, Milwaukee, WI. October 12, 2002.
Withrow Stephen J, and David M. Vail. Small Animal Clinical Oncology. St Louis: Saunders Elsevier, 2007
Understanding and recognizing cancer pain in cats and dogs by Louis-Philippe de Lorimier, DVM, DACVIM