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Pet Care. Pet Training. Pet Stories.
Pet Care. Pet Training. Pet Stories.

Understanding (and Paying For) the Cost of Cancer Treatment for Your Pet

05/13/2019 by Colleen Williams
May 13th, 2019 by Colleen Williams

Key Takeaways

  • Cancer is the number one cause of death in senior pets and comes in many forms.
  • Pets who get cancers such as lymphoma, bone, or blood cancer can be treated with chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation treatment.
  • Cancer is among the most expensive conditions to treat, which is why pet health insurance is a good idea.

Cancer affects millions of people each year—but humans aren’t the only creatures that can be diagnosed. Pets get cancer too; in fact, cancer is the number one cause of death in senior pets; roughly one in four dogs will get cancer in their lifetime.

Unfortunately, life-saving cancer treatment for dogs and cats isn’t cheap. The average cancer treatment process for a beloved pet can cost $10,000 or more and can include everything from tumor removal surgeries to blood work, X-rays, medication, and even special dietary needs.

There’s no getting around it: cancer can be awful for both you and your pet. Understanding what to expect can help you prepare for the possibility that your pet could be affected at some point in their life—and how you can budget for it.

Understand How Cancer Can Affect Your Pet

Like a human, your dog or cat can get several different types of cancer depending on their species, age, and other factors. A few examples of pet cancer are listed below.

·      Lymphoma

Dogs can get lymphoma, but cats with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or feline leukemia virus (FLV) are especially susceptible to it. In cats, it generally attacks the kidneys or intestinal tract; in dogs it can be found in other parts of the body. Appetite changes, behavioral issues, and sudden or unexplained weight loss can all signal the early stages of the disease.

·      Bone Sarcoma

Osteosarcoma, or bone sarcoma, affects dogs—especially larger breeds that take longer to grow mature, strong bones. It affects their bones and can make physical activity difficult if not impossible. Cats can also get this type of cancer; it can degrade their back legs and shoulders.

·      Hemangiosarcoma

This kind of cancer is found in middle-aged to older dogs. The root cancer stems from blood cells in different body tissue, leading to tumors in the liver or spleen. It’s fairly common, and surgery for it can be expensive.

How Much Will Your Pet’s Cancer Cost?

Pets who get the above types of cancer or another kind not listed could be facing chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation treatment. Even so, when a pet gets cancer, treatment options are typically designed to extend life or ease symptoms such as pain or reduced mobility. In most cases, treatment will not remove cancer or put it into remission.

On top of this, the cost of these treatments can be astronomical. A CBS report found that in 2015, the average cost for chemotherapy alone ranged from $3,000 to $5,000, and radiation treatment could cost up to $10,000. Surgery to help correct soft tissue sarcoma cost up to $9,000. Even palliative treatments meant to extend the pet’s life and offer symptom relief can easily cost thousands.

Coping with the Cost of Treatment

Veterinary oncology continues to make strides in both treatment options and effectiveness, but those costs can seem insurmountable for some owners. One way that pet owners can protect their wallets in the case of their beloved furry friend’s cancer diagnosis is with pet insurance.

Pet parents who have a policy can sometimes see as much as 85 percent of the cost for cancer treatment covered by their insurance policy. In addition, that offers some financial peace of mind if there’s a relapse and more costs are incurred. Healthy Paws Pet Insurance has covered such cancer treatments in the past.

A nasal tumor, normally treated with 15-20 radiation sessions costing up to $10,000, can be treated with CyberKnife™ Radiosurgery, which can target the tumor in three sessions. For a dog named Baxter, that meant a better chance at life—and for his owners. They had a pet insurance policy through Healthy Paws Pet Insurance that covered over $18,000 of the original $21,000 price tag. Not only is Baxter now enjoying a healthy life, but his owners were able to afford giving him that second chance with insurance.

Bottom Line

Pet cancer can be a heartbreaking reality for many pet parents. It can be emotionally devastating to deal with the disease and treatment. Furthermore, when you want to do everything possible, it can be extremely difficult on many levels if your wallet simply won’t let you.

This is why it may be helpful to look into pet insurance. In some cases, pet health insurance can help mitigate those high costs and offer financial peace of mind. With the right insurance policy, you could be ready for just about anything—including a dreaded cancer diagnosis in your pet. If you think you could end up paying large vet bills, look into pet insurance. It could be the deciding factor in how much time you get to spend with your pet.

By Andrew, a Content Associate from LendEDU –  a website bent on educating consumers in everything finance. Andrew is a self-professed cat-person who has written extensively about pet insurance over the last couple of years.