When our Springfield veterinary oncologists have the sad task of diagnosing cancer in a dog, the owner's first question is typical - how long can my dog live with cancer? Today our vets explain why that's such a difficult question to answer even with today's advanced diagnostics and treatments.
Cancer in Dogs
As with humans, there are a huge number of cancers that dogs can develop. Dog cancers vary greatly in the speed at which they spread and grow, how easy they are to treat, and the predicted life expectancy for dogs diagnosed with that particular cancer.
Factors such as your dog's age, breed, and overall health may also have a bearing on how long your dog survives after receiving a cancer diagnosis.
Types of Cancers Commonly Seen in Dogs
Dogs of any breed or size can develop cancer although some cancers appear to strike certain breeds more often - such as the high incidence rates of bladder cancer in Scottish Terriers.
Some of the most common cancers seen in dogs are:
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Mast Cell Tumors
- Skin Cancer
- Mammary cancer
- Bone Cancer - Hemangiosarcoma
- Lung Cancer
- Adrenal cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Bladder Cancer
Predicting Life Expectancy For Dogs With Cancer
Trying to predict the life expectancy for a dog with cancer is extremely difficult for vets, particularly considering that few pets with cancer will die naturally. When symptoms become severe many pet parents opt to euthanize their dog as a way to prevent suffering. Meaning that, for many dogs with cancer it is the pet owner that ultimately decides how long their dog lives following a cancer diagnosis.
Keeping that in mind, if we look at an example of two dogs that are both diagnosed with same cancer, one dog may be the best treatment available for their particular care and go on to live a good quality of life for a year or longer. Another dog may belong to a family that can't pay for such treatments and their pet may need to be euthanized soon after diagnosis to prevent undue pain and suffering.
It is also the case that some cancers are relatively easy to remove surgically if diagnosed early, whereas for other cancers surgery is not an option. For some chemotherapy may be effective, whereas other cancers may not respond to chemo at all.
What Your Vet Can Tell You
While our medical oncology and radiation oncology departments will be able to provide you with information about the average lifespan of a dog with particular cancer, this number may be subject to change depending on how advanced the cancer is, how aggressively it progresses, and the kinds of treatments you can afford.
Nonetheless, your vet should be able to provide you with information regarding how your dog's disease is likely to progress and whether effective treatments are available.
Your vet understands that finding out that your dog has cancer is very upsetting and that you will be eager to get the most accurate information possible to decide the best way forward for your canine companion.
Trust that your vet has your dog's best interests at heart - and yours.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.