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Top 5 things you should now about radiation therapy for your pet

May 03, 2013

Finding out that your pet has cancer can often be a traumatic experience.  Most people have questions such as, “What can be done for my pets tumor?” or “Will treating my pets cancer cause a lot of pain and discomfort?”  In order to get the best possible treatment for your pet and for you, it is important to get as much good information as possible.  When it comes to radiation therapy for pets, many pet owners do not even know that radiation therapy is available.  In honor of May being Pet Cancer Awareness Month and in an effort to provide pet owners with as much information as possible we came up with these five important things that you should know about radiation therapy for your pet.

  1. Radiation is available for your pet, if their tumor is one that may respond.  In a recent survey (Farrelly, McEntee in press) we identified 66 facilities in the United States that have radiation therapy equipment to treat animals.  The VCC is happy to be the first facility to offer radiation in Connecticut using a state of the art linear accelerator, allowing us to provide the best possible treatment options for pets with cancer.
  2. Radiation can be used to control pain in some pets.  When your pet has a tumor involving bone or any tumor that is inflamed, radiation may be very effective in reducing the pain, sometimes within days.
  3. Radiation does require anesthesia, but it is generally very safe.  Most radiation treatments for pets require that the animal only be under anesthesia for less than 5 to 10 minutes.  Also, the radiation itself does not hurt.  If your animal is treated with radiation they cannot feel it, just like an x-ray used to check for broken bones.  This means we can use very short acting anesthesia, which is safe for almost all pets.
  4. Some tumors can be cured with radiation.  Many of the tumors that we treat with radiation therapy can be controlled with combinations of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.  However, some tumors can also be controlled with radiation alone.  Nasal tumors, brain tumors and some oral tumors can be treated with radiation alone, often controlling the animal’s tumor for a year or more.
  5. Side effects from radiation are usually well tolerated.  When dogs (and some cats) are treated with radiation, they can develop significant side effects in the area that is treated.  These can include redness irritation and pain of the skin, the eyes the mouth among other areas.  Many pet owners have concerns about whether to put their pet through treatment because of this.  However, these side effects can be managed with medications.  With the current pain medications now available for animals most pets get through treatment with a good over all quality of life.  Also, these effects go away about one to two weeks after treatment.


Dr. John Farrelly - 4/25/2013