FDA: What You Should Know About Canine Cancer and the Types of Treatment
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FDA: What You Should Know About Canine Cancer and the Types of Treatment

September 2, 2014

Cancer isn't specifically a human disease. Unfortunately, our canine companions are susceptible to cancer at the same rate as humans.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), cancer is the cause for almost half of the deaths of pets over the age of 10. The older your pet, the more likely he or she will develop it.

Despite the differences in species, cancer warning signs, and eventual treatment, are very similar for both humans and dogs. Owners should be on the lookout for lumps, bumps, wounds that don't heal, swelling, and abnormal bleeding. Most-noticeable though are changings in normal functions like eating, drinking sleeping, pooping and peeing. Changes in behavior can also signal a problem.


Generally, the FDA-approved cancer treatments for dogs are the same as those for humans. There are three dog-specific treatments, two of which have conditional approvals from the FDA.

Palladia is used for mast cell tumors and was approved in 2009. Kinavet-CA1 is also approved for mast cell tumors and was conditionally approved in 2010. Paccal Vet-CA1 was conditionally approved this year and is for the treatment of mammary carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Conditional approval allows a company to make the drug available when it fully meets the FDA standards for safety and shows that there is a reasonable expectation that the treatment is effective. Conditional approvals are renewed each year and expire at the end of five years. The drug is removed from the market if the company can't prove its effectiveness.

While this does allow drugs to be on the market more quickly, "because the studies used to support a reasonable expectation of effectiveness are small, the drugs may not turn out to be effective when they are used in greater numbers of animals," FDA veterinarian Lisa Troutman said in a prepared release from the agency.

The big difference between human cancers and dog cancers is that side effects of cancer treatment in dogs are generally less than those in humans. Like human side effects, veterinarians work to manage these symptoms.

Questions to Ask Your Vet

So, you've noticed these changes in your pooch. You take her to the vet and you find out she has cancer. The FDA recommends asking these questions before going forward:

  • What treatments are available?
  • What is the prognosis with each treatment?
  • What are the side effects of each treatment and how will they affect my pet's quality of life?
  • How long will I need to treat my pet?
  • What is the cost of each treatment?
  • How many visits back to the veterinarian are needed?

Have a cat also? Those who also have feline companions should know that currently there are no FDA-approved cancer treatments specifically for cats. Treatments for cats are the same as those for humans.