Dogs can be very good at hiding their pain. If your dog has been diagnosed with cancer, detecting and treating pain quickly are especially important. Today our Huntersville Veterinary team shares the signs of cancer pain to watch for in your dog, and how cancer pain in dogs can be treated.
Cancer in Dogs
Cancer can occur in any part of your dog's body, and could be causing unnecessary discomfort without you realizing that there is an issue. For that reason it's important for pet parents to be on alert for any signs of pain in their dog with cancer.
Types of Cancer Pain
Because of a dog's lack the ability to speak, detecting cancer pain in dogs is challenging. Furthermore, understanding the nature of the pain (acute, chronic or intermittent) and the level of the pain (dull or severe) can make understanding how your dog is feeling very challenging!
These challenges are further compounded by the fact that the onset of pain in dogs with cancer can occur and escalate very gradually over a long period of time, or in some cases pain may be caused by cancer treatment rather than the cancer itself.
Signs of Pain in Dogs with Cancer
It may sound vague, however if your dog begins displaying any behavior that is not typical for them, it could be an indication of pain. Some of the most common signs of pain in dogs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Heavy panting
- Excessive grooming
- Increased vocalization
Many dog cancers occur later in life, so chances are good that you have had your dog a few years and know their normal behavior well. So, keep your eye out for any behavior that seems strange or unusual for your pet. If your dog isn't acting like themselves, it's time for a trip to the vet.
Treating Cancer Pain in Dogs
Because there are so many variables regarding the type of pain your dog may be experiencing and why, there are a host of pain relief medications and strategies that your vet may recommend to help improve your pet's quality of life. Below are a few common approaches to managing pain in dogs with cancer. It is also important to note that, your vet may recommend a combination of drugs or treatments to address your dog's pain.
Hot & Cold Therapy
- Hot and cold therapy involving the application of ice packs to painful areas, can be particularly helpful in reducing inflammation. Speak to your vet about whether is is an appropriate approach for your pup.
- Accupunture can offer relief to dogs with cancer that are suffering from mild to moderate pain. If you are interested in accupuncture as a way to relieve your pet's pain, be sure to consult a qualified veterinary accupuncturist.
- Topical ointments containing lidocaine, benzocaine, cortisone, or dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) may help to relieve different types localized pain. Be sure to speak to your vet before applying any topical medications to your dog. Many human medications (even topical medications) can be toxic to pets.
Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
- There are a number of effective anti-inflammatory drugs which your vet may prescribe to help relieve your pup's mild to moderate cancer pain, including: Metacam, Previcox, Deramaxx and Rimadyl. These medications can impact the liver and kidneys so periodic blood tests will be required to monitor your pet's liver and kidney function while using these medications
- Tramadol is a common narcotic prescribed to help manage mild to moderate cancer pain in dogs. This medication is well tolerated by most dogs and can be used a high doses to treat more severe pain, or combined with NSAIDs.
- When used alone, neurotransmitter modifiers can be useful in treating chronic low grade cancer pain in dogs. When used in combination with other pain medications neurotransmitter modifiers can help to relax dogs suffering from cancer. Some of the most common drugs in this category include gabapentin, amantadine and amitriptyline.
Veterinary Oncology at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Huntersville
At Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Huntersville, we refer cancer patients to our Matthews location. There, they use advanced diagnostics and treatments to provide the best possible care to pets with cancer. If your pet has been diagnosed with cancer, ask your primary care veterinarian for a referral to see a veterinary oncologist.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.