Palliative Care and Cancer for Dogs and Cats

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Understanding Palliative Care

Although it is terrible for any pet owner to consider, there may come a time in your pet’s life that brings pain or illness that is essentially untreatable. This in itself is incredibly difficult to cope with, but every loving pet family wants to ensure that their loyal pet is as comfortable as possible as his or her illness progresses. Palliative care from a veterinary perspective is this kind of treatment.

There are many reasons why you might want to stop an existing treatment for your pet, or to decline it at the time it is offered. Quality of life is probably the most important of these reasons. At the heart of the philosophy of veterinary palliative medicine is the idea that management of illnesses that are life-limiting is itself a feasible treatment regimen even though such treatment may not include any possible cure.

There are many health problems that can trigger the need for both standard veterinary treatment and palliative care, including chronic kidney disease, congestive heart disease, and diabetes. However, palliative care and disease management are not the same thing. Palliative medicine is end of life care.

There are so many reasons that a pet’s family might start palliative care as their pet’s life winds down. Some of these include: pain and/or ineffective results from curative treatment, advancing symptoms that significantly impair quality of life, and a diagnosis of a fatal or life-limiting disease.

Cancer in Dogs and Cats

Canine cancer is one of the most widespread and debilitating diseases that affects pets and owners alike. Dogs can suffer severe physical trauma, and pet owners also experience a considerable emotional toll. Treating dog cancer is of paramount importance, whether a dog is suffering from early, mid or late-stage disease. Finding natural remedies for cancer in dogs can take many pet owners on a frustrating journey. Feline cancer is less common, but no less debilitating to pets and owners alike.

Treating dog or cat  cancer is a collaborative effort, with a host of different yet interconnected canine healthcare aids – veterinarians, physical therapy, medicine, nutrition and more.

When a disease or illness becomes too great an obstacle to overcome, palliative care may be required. Palliative care is the extra attention and comfort a dog, cat or other pet receives in the days and weeks before dying. As with human end-of-life care, quality of life is a major consideration in determining what type of palliative care to administer. Consult your veterinarian for the best possible plan moving forward.

Symptoms of Cancer in Dogs and Cats

If your pet shows the following symptoms, cancer might be the cause. Have your pet checked immediately by a veterinarian.

  • Growths, swelling or lumps in the abdominal area
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Foul odors
  • Nausea, trouble eating and/or keeping food down
  • Low energy levels

Cancer can strike any breed of dog, and there are various kinds of cancer. However, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Boxers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Rottweilers all show rates of cancer that are above average. Each variety of cancer comes with a set of unique problems, symptoms, and challenges for your family pet.

Palliative Care and Cancer

If your best friend has been diagnosed with cancer at an advanced stage, there is often little chance of any cure. This kind of cancer, because it is incurable, is an all-too-common reason that a family might choose to initiate palliative care. This sadly familiar setting for palliative care can provide a good example of the reasons behind the choice to pursue palliative medicine.

Choices: Considering Palliative Care

When you are considering palliative care for your pet, you may wonder what sort of treatments and care you should choose. The fact is that each course of palliative medicine to offset the pain and suffering brought on by advanced cancer which is life-limiting is unique. It is the circumstances of your household and your pet’s life as well as personal preferences which define the choices that are right for you.

Your first step in this journey is to thoroughly explore what to expect from your dog’s illness with your veterinarian. Carefully flesh out how the disease will impact your pet’s day-to-day life. What will he or she be able to do? What will be missing from your pet’s life? For example, if your pet is very active and all prospects of running and playing will be gone, this is a much more difficult lifestyle change to accept; on the other hand, the same end to running and playing for a mostly sedentary animal may not feel as severe.

This is an important step to undertake first, not only because it helps clarify what to expect and how to react, but also because you and your entire family can participate. Planning for palliative care together will help ensure that you make the best choices. In this way you can identify your goals for your pet’s life and your best next steps.

Next you must consider your family’s unique set of beliefs, goals, and needs. How do you hope your pet will be able to die? How much pain is acceptable? How much of a lifestyle change is, in your view, humane? These kinds of difficult questions, although they are painful to consider, give you the information you need to decide on a palliative care plan that is personalized and appropriate.

Source: VCA Hospitals

Preventing Dog Cancer or Cat Cancer

Is there a fool-proof way to prevent dog or cat cancer? Unfortunately, no. However, much like human health, your pet’s quality of life (not just quantity of years) is improved with a sensible dietary plan. Exercise, sleep, play and social time also play their roles in canine and feline health, but nutrition might be the single-biggest factor that determines disease prevention, nutrient absorption, properly functioning biological processes and other health-related issues.

How to Treat Dog Cancer or Cat Cancer

If you’re unsure how to treat a cat or dog cancer, a number of options exist, including a comprehensive palliative care plan. Whatever the ultimate palliative care plan or cancer treatment option is, a healthy diet will aid in your dog’s day-to-day energy levels and (hopefully) the recovery process.

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Nutrition

Canine nutrition is an important element of your dog’s health in all stages of life, from a puppy’s first months to middle age, to well into the golden years. Establishing a sound nutritional plan early on is a smart idea, for both short-term and long-term canine health.

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