Cancer & Chemotherapy

Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs over the age of 2 years, and risk increases with age. Some breeds are also more susceptible to certain cancers. Feeding your dog a healthy diet, providing regular exercise and avoiding known carcinogens will help reduce the cancer risk. Spaying or neutering your dog may also reduce the risk for developing certain cancers. If cancer is diagnosed, your veterinarian will discuss the best treatment options for your dog. Treatment success depends on the type and extent of the cancer, as well as the aggressiveness of therapy. Many cancers can be cured, and all patients can be helped to some degree with a proactive plan to provide supportive therapy and pain management.

Cancer, regardless of the species in which it occurs, is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. Cancer cells develop because of damage to DNA. Dogs can inherit damaged DNA, which accounts for some hereditary cancers. More often, though, a dog's DNA becomes damaged by exposure to something in the environment, such as tobacco smoke, pesticides or other carcinogens. Intact/ unaltered pets also have an increased risk for certain cancers.

Not all tumors are cancerous. Benign (noncancerous) tumors do not spread to other parts of the body and, with very rare exceptions, are not life threatening. Malignant tumors can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body, where they begin to grow and replace normal tissue. Regardless of where a cancer may spread, however, it is usually named for the place it began.

Types of Common Pet Cancers

  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Lymphoma
  • Mast Cell
  • Melanoma
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Dogs receive a much lower dose of chemotherapy drugs, so they tolerate it much better than humans and often have few side effects.

Earlier treatment often results in better outcomes.

While chemotherapy is often a very effective form of treatment, it is not the ONLY treatment. Be sure to find out about all treatment options for your dog.


If you suspect cancer a veterinary consult will help determine the appropriate diagnostic steps for your pet, some of which may include needle aspirate, biopsy, x-ray, ultrasound, and/ or exploratory surgery. Once a diagnosis is made an appropriate treatment plan with your vet or oncologist should be determined: surgery, chemo, or radiation.

Some cancers are curative simply by surgical removal, while others may require an extensive course of chemotherapy.


Each form of cancer has specific drugs that uniquely target the neoplastic cells, thus a protocol with your vet or oncologist should be formed. These drugs sometimes can have side effects but can be minimized with regular monitoring blood work and medication to treat the side effects. Plus, dogs receive a much lower dose of chemotherapy drugs so they usually tolerate it much better than humans and often have few side effects.

The veterinarians at Linderman Animal Hospital stay up-to-date on current chemotherapy treatment options and are able to either treat pets for cancer, or will refer them to a veterinary oncologist for initial evaluation and treatment, depending on the type of cancer present and course of therapy needed. We are able to do follow-up testing and treatments for the oncologist as determined by their treatment regimen.

(cancer information extracted from Morris Animal Foundation website)