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Pet Cancer and the Guardian      

Dr. Al Townshend

According to The Veterinary Cancer Society, cancer is the leading cause of death in 47% of dogs, especially dogs over age ten, and 32% of cats. It has been estimated that approximately 6 million dogs and almost 6 million cats are diagnosed with some form of cancer each year.

For most, the Human-Animal Bond begins when we meet our new four-legged companion and continues to grow throughout life. Cancer can strike a pet at any age, but when it happens to an older dog or cat, it can have an even more significant impact on their Guardians.

The initial effect of hearing your cherished companion has cancer can produce a flood of emotions. Shock, helplessness, fear, guilt, and anger are common reactions to the cancer diagnosis.


Why did it happen to my pet, whet did I do wrong, it’s not fair!

The first step in dealing with cancer is to clear the mind of negative emotions and focus on reality. We don’t know all the answers to what causes cancer; it’s no one’s fault the pet has cancer, and letting negative emotions gain control helps no one.

The Guardian’s role is to be the strongest advocate for the pet and to do that, a positive attitude and focus are essential. No one knows a pet better than the Guardian, and no one knows what is best for the family and the pet than their keeper.

To make the best choices for the pet and the family, gathering as much information as possible is essential so that the best choices can be made. The entire family needs to be aware of the problem and commit to helping with the support and welfare of the pet.

For most, there will be a significant commitment of time. Frequent visits to the veterinarian and specialists, giving medications, feeding requirements may increase, and spending more positive time with the pet should be shared by the entire family.

The cost of cancer treatments can impact the family, so everyone needs to be aware and committed.


Knowledge is essential for making the best decisions

Learning as much as possible about your pet’s cancer, the options, and potential outcome is all about finding resources.


The Family Veterinarian

  • Your veterinarian has the knowledge, tools and experience to diagnose and in many cases, to treat a pet with cancer. They know the pet as well as anyone outside the family and they are a strong advocate for the pet.


Veterinary Cancer Specialists

  • Those veterinarians that specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer have additional resources to more accurately diagnose the degree of cancer and they often have a larger arsenal for the treatment of cancer.



  • Canine and feline cancer information is growing steadily. Be sure that what you are receiving regarding the diagnosis and treatment of animal cancer is the most up to date.
  • One of the better books on canine cancer is the Dog Cancer Survival Guide.




Financial Support

  • The cost in both time and money for some cancer diagnosis and treatments can put a significant financial burden on the family.
  • A list of financial aide resources for pets with cancer can be found on the Animal Cancer Foundation website.


Support Groups

  • No one should have to go through pet cancer alone. The journey can be long and difficult without close support from family, friends and those that have been down the road that others are just beginning.
  • Pet cancer support groups are made up of volunteers that have had a pet with cancer and understand the importance of understanding the challenges, stress, and frustrations can be a tremendous asset ton those just beginning the journey.
  • Support groups can play a key role on supporting a family going through the grief process of loosing a pet to cancer.
  • Kali’s Wish Cancer Foundation has a Facebook Support Group to help support Guardians through the cancer journey.

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