Current statistics show that one out of every three dogs will get cancer. If you have a sick pet, one of the most difficult decisions is when to put down a dog with cancer.

Many dog cancers are treatable, but how do you know when to say goodbye to your dog? This is a complicated decision, and it should be discussed with your veterinarian. Your choice should be based on the type of cancer and the dog’s overall health and condition before and during treatment.

Understand Your Dog’s Treatment Options

Cancer can manifest in many different ways. Watch for the ten early warning signs of cancer in dogs. If your dog is exhibiting symptoms of cancer, your vet will run tests to determine a diagnosis.

Once the type of cancer is determined, the probability of successful treatment and your dog’s quality of life during and after the treatment will be determined.

Some cancers are easier to treat than others. Some common dog cancers include:

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Visit our canine cancer library to learn more about your dog’s specific type of cancer.

Treatment options will impact your dog’s quality of life in different ways. Dogs can undergo surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, just like humans. Treatments can include pills or injections. Alternative cancer treatments that may improve your dog’s quality of life include things like:

  • Special diets
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Pain management methods such as acupuncture and massage

You can often use a combination of traditional and alternative treatments, but always discuss this with your veterinarian.

Gauge Your Dog’s Pain Levels

Some people think, my dog has cancer but seems fine. Dogs can’t tell you how much pain they are in with words, but there are a few behaviors you can look for as indicators.

Watch for symptoms such as:

  • Persistent limping
  • Heavy panting or whining
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Difficulty going to the bathroom
  • Loss of appetite

Keep in mind, some cancers are more painful than others. Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) is considered to be among the more painful forms of cancers. Your veterinarian should be able to help you determine the pain factor for your dog.

Will a dog with cancer die naturally? Yes, but remember that although they are not always showing pain, they are likely experiencing it. Terminal cancer in dogs with persistent pain is a likely situation for euthanasia.

Consider Your Dog’s Quality Of Life and Overall Health

Once your dog has been diagnosed with cancer, consider their quality of life. We all want to hold on to our beloved family friends for as long as possible, but it may not always be in their best interest to do so.

Have an honest conversation with your veterinarian and take into account:

  • Your dog’s type of cancer and likelihood of survival
  • How difficult the cancer treatment will be for your dog
  • Your dog’s estimated pain levels

Before and during treatment, look for these signs:

  • Loss or severely reduced appetite
  • Extreme or rapid weight loss
  • Inability to keep food down
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Difficulty moving (limping or lameness)
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of interest in things they love
  • Dramatic shifts in habitual behavior

When to euthanize a dog is not a conversation anyone wants to have. But if your dog’s quality of life is suffering from treatment or from the cancer itself, you may need to discuss euthanasia with your vet.

Making the Hardest Choice – Putting Down a Dog

If your vet advises that it’s in your dog’s best interest to put them down, remember that although your dog would eventually die naturally, you’ll be giving them a more peaceful passing. It’s natural to feel a wide range of emotions when your dog is dying of cancer. Having to make the difficult decision to put your pet to sleep doesn’t diminish the life you’ve given them. If your pet has felt loved and cared for their whole life, one moment in time can’t erase that.

Remember that the process is reported to be completely painless. A vet will give your pet an IV with a sedative, then they will apply the drugs that will allow your dog to drift off into a final, peaceful rest. Services are available for at-home euthanasia for the most compassionate and stress-free experience for your pet, and also for you.

All pets eventually pass away. Allowing our pets to do so on terms that are positive and loving is one of the clearest ways we can show them we love them as much as they loved us.

Help Our Mission – Spread Awareness

The National Canine Cancer Foundation – We Are the Cure is a registered nonprofit foundation, focusing on dog cancer. We help fund universities that are performing cutting-edge research with the goal of dog cancer prevention, finding cures, better treatments, and more accurate cost-effective diagnostic methods.

We want to diminish the number of dogs who are suffering from cancer. We’re not there yet, but anything helps. Help spread the word by visiting our website, sharing our resources, and getting involved today.