Cancer is a scary diagnosis and it can be a very stressful situation. The diagnosis affects pet owners in many ways. Coming to terms with the idea that your healthy, happy pet is suddenly ill can be very difficult and overwhelming. It’s not easy, but we’ll walk through this emotional process.
1. The Diagnosis
During the initial diagnosis, it’s common to feel confused by the test results and the complicated medical terms. Ask your family veterinarian questions! There are many different types of cancer and they all act differently. Learning more about your pet’s specific type of cancer will give you more confidence in making medical decisions. Your veterinarian can also contact our board-certified oncologist Dr. Briana Keller for more information.
2. The Right Treatment Plan
Based on the diagnosis, treatment will vary. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and/or immunotherapy. Alternative medicine, nutritional therapy, and clinical research trials may also be considered. Your family veterinarian will discuss the options that may be available and can help you determine the best plan for your pet. For further evaluation and treatment recommendations, your family veterinarian can refer you to a board-certified oncologist such as Dr. Briana Keller, the head of the Oncology Service at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota.
Don’t panic! It’s important to note that animals tolerate chemotherapy much better than humans do. Pets on chemotherapy can enjoy all their normal activities, and most pet owners report their animals have a great quality of life on chemotherapy! Learn more about chemotherapy in pets here.
4. Prognosis and Goals
Your family veterinarian or veterinary oncologist will discuss the prognosis based on your pet’s diagnosis and response to the appropriate treatments. In the long run, a cancer patient’s goal is remission, but it’s also important to learn about palliative care to ensure a good quality of life for your pet until it is time to say goodbye.
5. Financial Commitment
When it comes to treatment, a major consideration is the financial commitment. For those with pet insurance, this would be a time to check policy coverage to see what’s included. Financing through credit companies may be an option as well. Many clinics, including Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, also offer payment plans to those who qualify.
6. Time Commitment
A treatment plan that requires regular visits to the clinic means having time to dedicate to get your pet to the clinic, as well as having reliable transportation. It also often means daily medications. The time commitment to your pet’s treatment plan should be discussed with a family veterinarian or board-certified oncologist in depth since it may change your everyday schedule.
7. Modifying Activity
After a plan is created, you will begin to settle into a new routine with your pet. Depending on your pet’s treatment and how your pet is feeling day by day, you may be able to stick to your regular exercise regimen or you may need to modify your pet’s activity. Most pets undergoing cancer treatment can enjoy their normal activities, but if your pet shows signs of fatigue or reluctance, respect your pet’s limits. Always discuss changes in your pet’s activity level and diet with your family veterinarian or oncologist so that they can do everything possible to help maintain your pet’s quality of life.
8. Emotional Support
Everyone needs emotional support when seeing a loved one battle cancer. The financial strain, the daily caregiving and administering medications, and the acceptance of a pet’s diagnosis can be daunting. A pet owner can experience shock, anger, grief, and anxiety or depression after hearing their pet has cancer. These emotions are understandable and valid. Know that you are not alone, and it’s okay to seek support. If you choose to open up about the situation to friends and family, you may find many people rallying around you with similar experiences and words of encouragement.
As you and your pet adjust to this diagnosis, it’s important to also have realistic expectations. Your family veterinarian and oncologist will always be honest with you about your pet’s health. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, medical interventions will no longer maintain a good quality of life for your pet. Eventually, the good days will dwindle and the bad days will become more frequent. Saying goodbye to a pet is never an easy decision, but when it’s time, you will know you gave your pet a good life.
For more information on the Oncology Service at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, click here.