Cancer Treatment for Dogs

Cancer is an often-fatal disease that can affect any multi-cellular organism, including domesticated dogs. Cancer treatment for dogs is much the same as a cancer treatment for anyone other species. The most important thing to remember about cancer treatment for your dog is early action. Cancer gets progressively more deadly as the condition develops.

What is Cancer?

Cancer occurs when one or a few cells in the dog's body complete a very specific set of mutations, which cause the mutated cells to continually reproduce themselves, even though the extra cells are not needed. These mutated cells, called cancer cells, start to form an unnaturally growing mass or lump, known as a tumor. A tumor can be located anywhere in a dog's body, and can consist of any type of cell.

There are two distinct types of cancerous tumors. Benign tumors stay in the same place, and usually stop growing eventually of their own accord. The other type, called a malignant tumor, always starts out as benign. When a benign tumor undergoes another very specific mutation, it starts to grow long tendrils of cancerous tissue that spread throughout the body, sometimes breaking off and starting new tumors elsewhere. Malignant cancer is much harder to treat than benign cancers, because it rapidly establishes itself throughout the body.

Surgical Treatment

Cancerous tissue can sometimes be removed from a dog's body through surgical procedures. Surgery is usually used to treat benign skin tumors or tumors that are close to the skin surface. In a surgical treatment for canine cancer, the tumor is removed along with some of the surrounding flesh (the extra tissue is removed to ensure that all the cancerous tissue has been removed). Surgery is not an effective treatment for malignant cancer.

Radiation Therapy

Another common method of fighting cancer in dogs is to focus a beam of high-energy x-rays on the cancerous tissue. The radiation is intense enough to kill the cancer cells. Radiation therapy is often used in conjunction with surgery, either before the surgery to reduce the size of the tumor, or after the surgery to kill remaining cancer cells.


The most intense and stressful method of treating cancer in dogs is chemotherapy. This treatment involves flooding the dog's bloodstream with toxic chemicals that are more harmful to cancer cells than to normal body tissue. Chemotherapy is the most common treatment for malignant cancer, because it is a body-wide treatment.

Cancer is one of the most deadly diseases that domesticated dogs can contract. Even with the best available treatments, a dog with cancer rarely survives. The dog's probability of survival can increase dramatically if the condition is detected and treated before it has too long to develop.