Dogs and cats that have cancer are generally middle aged or older. Age is not disease but there often other health problems in older pets with cancer that must be managed simultaneously with the cancer. In addition, cancer can produce some problems in other organs such as anemia, kidney problems and digestive abnormalities. The complete management of cancer in dogs and cats requires consideration of supportive measures. These supportive measures can be considered in several categories: nutritional considerations, blood product support and, ancillary medication for concurrent diseases or symptoms.
Pets with cancer require consistent, high quality nutrition. The specific nutritional needs for pets with cancer are not completely understood. The brands of the food is less important than a complete, balanced and palatable food for your pet with cancer.
A poor appetite and weight loss can result from cancer in several ways. Cancer can affect appetite, smell, metabolism and the physical ability to chew or swallow. Treatment for cancer may also reduce appetite by inducing nausea or irritation to the intestinal tract. Numerous means of dealing with nutritional issues in pets with cancer now exist and this aspect of management should be carefully considered with your veterinarian.
In some instances, pets may require transfusions of whole blood, red blood cells or plasma. This type of management is usually necessary on an acute basis and is rarely used for long-term support. Blood product transfusions are more available than ever before.
Many dogs and cats diagnosed with cancer also have other health problems. Some health problems are minor and require little additional consideration after a cancer diagnosis is made. Others may profoundly affect the decisions about cancer management. The specific management considerations for dogs with concurrent medical problems should be thoroughly discussed.
Symptomatic medications are often necessary while cancer is being controlled. Some medications that may be necessary include anti-emetics, laxatives, anti-diarrheals, anti-histamines, cortisone-derivatives and others.
Antibiotics may be necessary to prevent or control bacterial infections at various times throughout treatment of cancer in dogs and cats.
Close attention to the possibility of dehydration from vomiting, diarrhea or excessive urination is required for many patients with cancer. On occasion, fluid administration on an outpatient or inpatient basis may be required.