Cancer is now the biggest disease-related cause of death in dogs and cats, according to the Morris Animal Foundation, but there are an increasing number of therapies available to pet owners who want to prolong the lives of their affected four-legged friends. So the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has issued new guidelines for veterinarians on how to properly diagnose and treat cancer in pets.
The guidelines, published in the July/August issue of the AAHA’s journal, recommend a patient-specific approach to diagnosing, staging and treating cancer in pets. The publication includes tables of information on specific cancers in both cats and dogs, and it reviews many therapeutic choices, including surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and pain management.
The guidelines place a heavy emphasis on the need to provide emotional support to pet owners who are facing a cancer diagnosis. “Because cancer is often a disease of older pets, the time of life when the pet-owner relationship is usually strongest, a satisfying outcome for all parties involved is highly dependent on good communication between the entire healthcare team and the client,” the abstract says.
The paper offers recommendations for veterinarians about how to best discuss cancer with pet owners. It also provides overviews of some of the newest options in oncology treatment, including targeted molecular treatments and “metronomic” chemotherapy, an increasingly popular method of administering low doses of oral chemo drugs.
“The guidelines are not meant to be an oncology textbook but are more like a snapshot of what is currently being done by specialists for animals with cancer,” said John Berg, chair of the guidelines task force and a professor of surgery at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, in a press release from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The intention, he added, is “to give practitioners a broad overview of how oncology specialists--medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and surgeons--currently approach cancer diagnosis and treatment.”