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This checklist is meant to help you navigate your way through a difficult cancer diagnosis for your pet. Take what information will help you proceed with your pet’s treatment to give you and your pet the best outcome possible.

    1. Gather more information: Once you receive the diagnosis, do not be afraid to ask some questions. You might start by asking your vet about the number of cancer-related cases their clinic has successfully treated in the past. Find out if your vet is familiar with the specific type of cancer your pet has and the associated treatment. It may be a rare kind that they have not treated before. If so, your vet may refer you to a specialist in pet cancer–a veterinary oncologist. A specialist will be able to provide you with more in-depth information about the best treatment options for your pet’s unique cancer diagnosis.
    1. Create a budget: Understanding what you can afford will help you create a budget once you have an idea of the expenses. This will allow you and your vet to select the best treatment options.
    1. Resolve expenses: Cancer treatment can be expensive, and it can be difficult for every pet owner to afford. Various nonprofit organizations can help you to fund your pet’s cancer treatments. These resources can inform you about the available treatment, expenses, and potential financing options for your furry friend. Ask your vet about possible sources of financial support.
    1. Keep your pet happy and comfortable: If feasible for your pet, it is helpful to maintain normal routines for them while receiving treatment. Do not introduce your pet to new people or places during treatment. Give your pet a lot of attention, love, and care to reduce their stress.
    1. Boost your pet’s immune system: Consult with the vet about adding essential nutrients to your pet’s diet that might safely help boost their immune system during treatment.
    1. Pain management: Cancer treatments may be associated with moderate to severe pain. Ask your vet if they can prescribe drugs to reduce pain and follow the recommended dose carefully. For some alternative therapy for pets who like the water, consider enrolling them in weightless exercise therapy (hydrotherapy) as another way to ease their pain and elevate their spirits.
    1. Get emotional support: For many of us, our pets are part of our families. A cancer diagnosis can cause significant stress and can affect your day-to-day life. It is important to reach out for help if your pet’s cancer diagnosis is affecting your personal well-being. Seek support from your friends and family. There are also several online communities that are dedicated to supporting caregivers of cancer patients. Consider joining a social media group for pet owners who have struggled with pet cancer. Connecting with people who have had similar experiences can give you insights, tips, and support to help you move forward.
    1. Keep a lookout for new technologies and new clinical trial results: Veterinary oncology is one of the fastest-growing fields of study. Consider investigating the latest treatment model or approach. Ask your vet about recent clinical trial data and search the internet for different upcoming treatment options.
    1. Consider your pet’s quality of life: Sometimes, making the right treatment choice can rest on how it affects the pet’s quality of life. Depending on the type of cancer, some treatments are aggressive with a low survival rate. Therefore, it can be dfficult for pet owners to decide between treatment and comfortable end-of-life. To help make these tough decisions a little easier, below is a list of questions pet owners may consider:
      • Is your pet showing signs of pain and discomfort?
      • Can they breathe properly?
      • How much food does your pet eat? Are they consuming their complete nutritional and caloric intake?
      • Is your pet drinking enough water?
      • Has your pet stopped grooming?
      • What are your pet’s eyes telling you? Does your pet seem depressed?
      • How well can your pet move? Are they able to go out for walks?
      • Does your pet have more good days than bad days?

Your vet will provide an assessment based on your answers to these questions and help you make the right choice for your beloved pet.

The Pet Cancer Foundation’s Website Editorial team is comprised of veterinarians, veterinary oncologists, and veterinary technicians, as well as scientific writers and editors who have attained their PhD’s in the life sciences, along with general editors and research assistants. All content found in this section goes through an extensive process with multiple review stages, to ensure this extended resource provides pet families with the most up-to-date information publicly available.

The team listing of those contributing to the information on this page is here:

Keep Your Pets Healthy Editorial Team

Last Updated: April 27, 2022

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The Pet Cancer Foundation’s Medical Illustration team is comprised of medical illustration specialists and graphic designers that work in consultation with our team of experts to create the medical art found throughout our website. Though not all medical concepts require the assistance of imagery, when a page does contain a medical illustration, credit to the artist and our medical art director will be noted here.

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The following sources were referenced to write the content on this page: 

Villalobos, AE 2019, ‘Supportive Care for People with Disabilities as Working Partnerships with their Assistance Dogs Are Ending: A Perspective from Veterinary Oncology’, Front. Vet. Sci., vol. 6, no. 309, pp. 1-7.

The Pet Cancer Foundation’s medical resource for pet owners is protected by copyright.

For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.