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Age is Not a Disease

Apr 09, 2011

Age is Not a Disease

As far as treating animals with cancer, it is absolutely true: Age is not a disease. What I mean by this is that a pet's numerical age has very little to do with my decision as a veterinary oncologist to recommend to treat or not to treat a pet. What matters more is how the pet is doing--is it still vibrant, is it biologically and biochemically healthy, and what type of therapy I am recommending. To illustrate the point, I often relate the story of the vibrant 75 year old woman who has broken her leg. Do you deny her therapy because she is too old? She has in fact lived longer than the average. Most people would clearly recommend fixing her leg. So although age is indeed a factor, it should not be THE factor in the decision about whether to treat your pets cancer or not.

There are many pets that develop cancer later in life that do incredibly well. I am reminded of "Sasha", a 16 year old dog with stage V lymphoma--a very advanced stage. Despite her age, the owners elected to treat her with injectable chemotherapy. Rather than consign her to a lesser therapy due to her age, we decided to treat her aggressively as she was otherwise a healthy dog. It is now 5 months later and "Sasha" is amazing everyone. She is in complete remission and behaving like she did when she was a mere 12 year old.

In fact, the more pets I treat and the older I get, the more true this saying becomes.