Cancer is the leading natural cause of death in older cats and dogs. However, it is also one of the most treatable compared with diseases like heart failure or kidney failure. Similar to human medicine, there have been incredible advances in the treatment of cancer that can provide our patients with a high quality of life for years to come. It is important to remember that age is not a disease. Animals that we may consider “old” can tolerate therapy just as well as young animals and may benefit from therapy that is tailored to their “biologic age” (how they are doing physiologically rather than relying on their numeric age).
Learn more about cancer care at Fetch by watching the video below.
Our Cancer Care Services
Chemotherapy may be used as the sole treatment for certain cancers or it may be used in combination with other treatment modalities, such as surgery, immunotherapy, and radiation therapy. Chemotherapy will likely be recommended for cancer that has already spread to other areas of the body, for tumors that occur at more than one place in the body, or for tumors that are too large to be removed surgically. In some cases, chemotherapy can be used to try to shrink large tumors prior to surgery or to help eliminate certain types of microscopic cancer cells that have not been completely removed surgically. For cancers that are at a high-risk for metastasis early in the course of a disease, chemotherapy can be used after surgery or radiation therapy to help slow down the growth of cancer cells in other parts of the body.
Chemotherapy can be administered by many methods, although the two most common routes for our veterinary patients are intravenously (in a vein) or orally (by mouth). Our goal in treating your pet is to minimize any adverse effects related to chemotherapy with supportive medications (anti-nausea, anti-diarrheal, antibiotics) that can be administered by mouth at home. Although negative impacts on quality of life are uncommon, the most common side effects that may occur during therapy would be mild gastrointestinal upset, short episodes of tiredness, or decreases in the blood cell counts. The majority of side effects experienced by your pet can be treated with oral medications at home. Chemotherapy is administered on an outpatient basis and very rarely do pets need to be hospitalized for individual treatments or side effects.
The most common canine and feline tumors treated with chemotherapy or targeted therapies are lymphomas, osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, bladder tumors, mast cell tumors, mammary gland tumors, anal sac tumors, melanoma, thyroid tumors, and various gastrointestinal tumors. The treatment intervals of chemotherapy administration, financial commitments, and overall prognosis will vary depending on the underlying type and stage of cancer. Your oncologist will formulate a specific treatment protocol for your pet and will work with you to ensure that your pet has a good quality of life.
For more information on immunotherapy as a potential treatment option for your pet, ask your oncologist.
Cancer knows no boundaries for the animals that it will affect and certainly horses are no exception. Gray horses are genetically at risk for developing melanomas, primarily of the skin. It is reported that over 70% of Gray horses over the age of 15 years will develop melanoma. In some patients, these tumors can become numerous and quite large. They can also be located in areas on the body that can lead to problems, such as difficulty urinating and defecating. Additionally, these tumors can become more invasive and can spread to other parts of the body. Effective treatment options are limited. Recently, immunotherapy has become a promising therapy option for horses with melanoma. The melanoma vaccine that is used in both dogs and cats may also be effective in some horses. The vaccine is generally well tolerated and side effects are uncommon. At Fetch, the oncologists can answer your questions regarding this type of treatment for horses.
A variety of medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs), steroids, opioids, neuromodulators/neurotransmitters, and bisphosphonates, can be used either alone or in combination. Although the goal is to use the fewest number of medications needed to control pain, often multi-drug therapy can be beneficial. Additionally, cancer pain can be treated with chemotherapy, bisphosphonates, and radiation therapy. Sometimes surgery is used as a method to remove a source of chronic pain.
Pain management strategies can also include complementary therapies, such as acupuncture and massage, which may enhance more traditional types of treatment. Most of these strategies are used together and can work synergistically with medical therapy.
Because of the wide variety of conditions which can cause pain and individual responses to treatments, pain management is tailored to each individual patient based on the underlying cause of pain, as well as their response to therapy.
Advances in technology can improve your pet’s quality of life.
The recent advances in the detection and treatment of cancer for both pets and humans have been significant. Using the latest treatments and newest technologies available, we can enhance the quality and duration of our patients’ life. We work to provide your clients with the information they need to make decisions about their pet’s care and treatment. Our primary goal in treating cancer is to improve the quality of life for our pets. No matter the diagnosis, there are always a variety of treatment options available that can be tailored to address the expectations and limitations of all pet parents. We work closely with our referring veterinarians to ensure the most positive experiences and best outcomes for our clients and patients.
HOW DO PETS TOLERATE CHEMOTHERAPY?
Chemotherapy is well tolerated by most pets, with less than 15% of patients having some form of side effects. Most side effects are mild and self-limiting, such as nausea, diarrhea, lethargy, or decrease in appetite. Most side effects can be easily managed at home with oral medications most of the time. When unacceptable side effects occur, we modify our treatment plan. Our goal is to improve quality of life as well as quantity. More common diseases we treat are:
• Soft Tissue Sarcoma
• Transitional Cell Carcinoma
• Mast Cell Tumor
• Anal Sac Carcinoma
• Squamous Cell Carcinoma
• Mammary Gland Carcinoma