Which Cancer Treatment for Dogs Is the Least Invasive?

There are different kinds of cancer treatment for dogs, which include surgery, drugs, radiation, chemotherapy and acupuncture. Each treatment poses risks and a variable success rate. Sometimes a treatment will just extend the quality of life of the dog but not provide an extension of life. Some of these treatments can be combined for greater effectiveness.

Surgery can be the most aggressive form of cancer treatment for dogs for certain cancers and possibly the only treatment available as in the case of tumors, such as stomach cancer. However, there are alternative treatments that are less invasive. Several of these processes offer the best cancer cures for dogs. A dog with cancer may get many cures.

Medications for Cancer Treatment

Antiangiogenic drugs deprive cancerous tumors of the necessary blood supply and oxygen needed to grow. Since these drugs are given in low doses, this type of treatment is not as toxic as chemotherapy.

The drug Palladia manufactured by Pfizer Animal Health Inc. targets mast cell tumors. Side effects include loss of appetite, diarrhea, lameness and weight loss. It is approximately 50% effective and is expensive.

Chemotherapy to Kill Cancer Cells

Chemotherapy involves toxic materials being injected into the dog that kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, it also damages some healthy cells in the process. Treatment has become more advanced and targeted thereby improving success rates. Since dogs require lower doses of chemotherapy, side effects (lethargy, nausea, infections and hair loss) are not as pronounced as with humans. Antibiotics and anti-nausea medications can be prescribed to reduce these side effects.

Since chemotherapy is administered intravenously, the dog may require some hospital stay, especially if any infections appear. High quality food and plenty of fresh water is necessary for recovery along with plenty of rest. Survival rates vary and so frequent monitoring is necessary. Chemotherapy is recommended for fast growing cancers such as lymphomas.

Radiation Therapy Stops Spread of Cancer

High-energy radiation is targeted on cancer growths in order to kill them and stop the spread of cancer and potentially cure the cancer. Radiation therapy can be combined with medications and chemotherapy for more effective treatment, especially when the entire tumor cannot be removed surgically. If the cancer is terminal, radiation therapy can shrink the size of the tumor and relieve pain to render the patient more comfortable.

Radiation therapy can be administered by injecting radioactive particles into the dog's body in order to target certain cells. Machines similar to x-ray machines can emit radiation into the body as gamma waves. Another type of radiation therapy involves radioactive implants (brachytherapy) via a large needle or surgery.

This type of therapy requires the dog to be put under anesthesia in order for the animal to remain still. It is given in treatments once a week for several weeks and therefore can cost several hundred to several thousands of dollars. Common side effects include: blistering, hair loss, redness, scratching, oozing of the skin and possible normal cell loss.

Alternative Treatments for Cancer in Dogs

Other alternative treatments can include herbal medicines, massage, acupuncture and holistic therapy. Cryosurgery (the use of extreme cold) and photodynamic therapy (a photosensitizing agent or drug that is activated by light administered by fiber optics to destroy cancer) may have to be supplemented with surgery since they only shrink the size of the tumor but do eliminate them altogether.