Cancer is such a scary disease that it’s sometimes easy to forget it affects our pets too. We’re busy worrying about our friends, family and even ourselves. But the fact is, cancer is a huge problem for cats and dogs. To be exact, it’s the leading cause of death for 47% of dogs and 32% of cats. For a single disease, that’s a huge percentage. If your dog or cat is over ten years old, the chance they’ll get cancer becomes much higher with every passing year. The good news is, your pet insurance will likely cover cancer, especially if you hold a premium plan — as long as it wasn’t a pre-existing condition when you signed the insurance contract.

That’s definitely a good thing, considering the cost of oncology treatment could range anywhere from a few thousand dollars all the way up to $30,000 or more. Available treatments vary as widely as the costs do, ranging all the way from surgery to chemotherapy. In any case, reading your contract closely and communicating clearly with your insurance agent are the best ways to get up to speed on your policy’s cancer section. If you don’t hold a premium pet insurance plan, you may have to deal with a couple caveats, like payment only up to a certain age or threshold.

Keep reading and we’ll get you up to speed on what your options are. Scroll down for more information on spotting the symptoms of cancer in your dog or cat, treatment options, the cost of fighting it, prevention, and breeds which are most likely to get cancer as they age.

Symptoms for Cats and Dogs

Cancer is such a scary disease that it’s sometimes easy to forget it affects our pets too. We’re busy worrying about our friends, family and even ourselves. But the fact is, cancer is a huge problem for cats and dogs. To be exact, it’s the leading cause of death for 47% of dogs and 32% of cats. For a single disease, that’s a huge percentage. If your dog or cat is over ten years old, the chance they’ll get cancer becomes much higher with every passing year. The good news is, your pet insurance will likely cover cancer, especially if you hold a premium plan — as long as it wasn’t a pre-existing condition when you signed the insurance contract.

That’s definitely a good thing, considering the cost of oncology treatment could range anywhere from a few thousand dollars all the way up to $30,000 or more. Available treatments vary as widely as the costs do, ranging all the way from surgery to chemotherapy. In any case, reading your contract closely and communicating clearly with your insurance agent are the best ways to get up to speed on your policy’s cancer section. If you don’t hold a premium pet insurance plan, you may have to deal with a couple caveats, like payment only up to a certain age or threshold.

Keep reading and we’ll get you up to speed on what your options are. Scroll down for more information on spotting the symptoms of cancer in your dog or cat, treatment options, the cost of fighting it, prevention, and breeds which are most likely to get cancer as they age.

Treatment Options and Symptom Relief

Treatment options for cancer in pets are just as varied as they are for cancer in humans. The best method will depend on your pet, the type of cancer you’re trying to fight and your vet’s recommendations. Some of the most common options are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

If the growth is localized to one area and hasn’t metastasized, then surgery to remove the tumor may be a good choice. Otherwise, if the situation is a little more complicated, a veterinarian may recommend a course of chemotherapy or radiation therapy either before or after a surgical procedure. Chemotherapy, or using drugs to combat the cancer, has many different forms. Your veterinary oncologist may administer the medicine through a variety of different methods including intravenously, orally or through an injection. Finally, in situations where a tumor is located next to an organ, and surgery or chemotherapy won’t be effective, an oncologist will administer radiation therapy to a specific area to remove the tumor.

There are also new, innovative cancer solutions that are constantly going through development cycles, like antibody treatment and immunotherapy. Such treatments may be the methods of the future, but they’re not always readily available in every area, or at every budget. If you’re interested, it’s worth asking your vet about your options beyond the standard range of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Cost of Treatment

As we mentioned above, cancer treatment  could only cost you a few thousand dollars — or it could cost you tens of thousands. Either way, it’s not cheap, and paying out-of-pocket may even be totally impossible for you. Here’s the lowdown on what it’ll cost.

First, an initial diagnosis could be a couple hundred or even a couple thousand dollars. After the diagnosis, what you pay will depend on the course of treatment your pet receives. A round of chemotherapy could cost up somewhere around $3,000-$5000, and a course of radiation therapy could cost between $5,000 and $10,000. In the end, it’ll depend on what type of cancer your pet has, how widespread it is and where you’re located. And after an initial treatment, you may need to administer antibiotics or other medications as well, which could mean an extra $30-50 per month. 

Essentially, cancer is one of the most common diseases aging dogs and cats face, but it’s also one of the most expensive. Skimping on insurance coverage for cancer in your pet might save some money in the short term, but if you need to treat it later, it’ll cost quite a bit.

Could be a good area for graphics because there are so many different options for cancer treatment, with each costing a different amount.

Prevention

Just like in humans, sometimes cancer strikes and there’s nothing you can do about it. No matter how healthy a life your pet lives, as they age their risk for cancer will naturally increase. Despite that, there are certain risk factors you can minimize throughout your pet’s life by keeping a close eye on them and what they eat.

Obesity in pets hasn’t been proven as a cause for cancer, but a link is definitely possible. Keeping your pet on a healthy diet, and keeping them at a healthy weight, is one of the best things you can do to minimize the risk of cancer. That also means it’s a good idea to keep your dog or cat away from too many processed foods, as an overly-inflammatory diet can pose the same cancer risks as obesity. Focus on foods that are high in protein or fiber, and stay away from simple carbohydrates and sugars. Furthermore, make sure your pet is getting an appropriate amount of exercise each day, especially if they’re a big eater.

Finally, keep a lookout for any regular chemicals in your pet’s environment. Pesticides (including any anti-bug chemicals you put on your pet’s fur), cleaning materials, exhaust fumes and tobacco smoke could all contribute to an increased risk for cancer. It pays off to make sure any yards your pet plays or walks around in are as chemical-free as possible.

Susceptible Breeds

Some dog breeds with the highest risk for cancer are:

  • Golden Retriever
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Rottweiler
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Beagle
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Boxer
  • Boston Terrier
  • Doberman Pinscher

There isn’t much data on cancer rates by cat breed. But purebreds are thought to be more susceptible, and cats with white faces or ears may be more vulnerable to squamous cell carcinoma. Some cat breeds that may have a high risk for cancer are:

  • Persian
  • Bengal
  • Siamese