Treatment Options for Pet Cancer

 Treatment Options for Pet Cancer

From surgery to chemo there are options for treatment

Content courtesy of One Cure Staff Writer, Colorado State University / Flint Animal Cancer Center

Forty years ago, pets diagnosed with cancer had few options. Today, 50% of cancer in pets is manageable or curable with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of treatments. Early diagnosis and treatment of cancer will increase the likelihood of success. Similar to cancer treatment in people, surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are often used alone or in combination with other treatments to control cancer in pets. 


Surgery is one of the most commonly used techniques to treat cancer in companion animals. The best chance to achieve complete surgical removal of cancer is during the first surgical procedure and in many cases, is best performed by a surgeon with experience in surgical oncology. To find a surgeon in your area, visit the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.

The most common reasons for surgery are:

  1. to get a diagnosis (surgical biopsy)
  2. cure the cancer patient
  3. provide pain relief or improved function
  4. make the tumor smaller to enhance success with combined treatments such as radiation.

Click here for more information on surgery treatment options. 


Dogs don’t typically lose their hair during chemotherapy treatment, but cats might lose their whiskers. Dogs that have hair that continually grows (Poodles, for example) often lose some of their hair.

Chemotherapy is frequently used to treat cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, to treat cancer that cannot be treated with surgery or radiation therapy alone or when it may enhance the effectiveness of these treatments.

The goal of chemotherapy is to control or eliminate the cancer while still providing the highest quality of life to your pet. Chemotherapy drugs sometimes provide a cure because they aim to control the cancer by killing cells and slowing the progression of the disease.

For more information on chemotherapy treatment, click here to check out the FACC blog post. 

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses ionizing radiation to damage the DNA in tumor cells, resulting in tumor cell death. Radiation is usually administered to achieve long term tumor control. It can also be used to provide relief of pain or improve function in patients suffering from advanced cancers, known as palliative care.

Learn more about radiation treatment by clicking here

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that are used in all specialties of medicine to evaluate new types of treatment.

Clinical trials may be designed to determine the anti-cancer effects and side effects of new drugs, new surgical procedures, novel radiation therapy procedures, or innovative approaches to treatment (such as gene therapy or immunotherapy).

Clinical trials related to pet cancer are conducted throughout the United States. The American Veterinary Medical Association maintains a database of current clinical trials. Please visit the AVMA website to search for trials in your area.

About One Cure Cancer is cancer. Colorado State University’s One Cure program is founded on the principle that cancer affects all creatures and, that treatment breakthroughs come through collaboration between scientists and doctors who are working with both people and animals. This approach is known as comparative or translational oncology; the study of cancer in people and pets to benefit both species. It is the core of One Cure and is a guiding concept for the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University. The center works to improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer in pet animals and, by working with the human medical field, translates research findings and knowledge to also help people with cancer. For more information, visit

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