How Much Do Dog Cancer Treatments Cost?

Dog cancer can be one of the most terrifying events that could happen to you as a pet parent. It occurs more commonly than one may think; with as many as 1 in 4 dogs developing a tumor at some point in their lifetimes – although they may not always be malignant.

True enough, cancer has been identified as the leading cause of death in dogs over 10 years old, especially in high-risk breeds such as Rottweilers, Shepherds, and Retrievers, as well as older animals. Being cognizant of the potential signs is crucial so pet owners should do their research.

sick dog coughing

Cost of Cancer Diagnosis

The process and cost to treat cancer can be both lengthy and expensive, not to mention emotionally draining. Early detection is very important for this reason, as it may mean the difference between recovery or progression.

Luckily, knowledge and treatment of dog cancer have been intensively researched over the course of time. Thus, the survival rate has also increased.

Detecting cancer is, of course, the first step to treatment. If you see any abnormalities in the health or behavior of your animal, particularly indicators of cancer such as bumps on or under the skin, rapid weight loss, lethargy or loss of appetite, or something irregular is detected during a routine exam, investigation and diagnosis are critical.

An initial visit to diagnose the specifics of the disease, as well as prognosis and formulation of treatment plans, will cost around at least $200 to $400.

The range in the initial cost is based on your local veterinary office’s prices, as well as what and how many tests are needed to get a complete diagnosis. For example, there are cases that a fine needle aspirate and related lab work that cost $200 to $300 are enough to bring out a result.

Meanwhile, cases that require biopsy and related lab work can cost $500 to $600. Price can shoot up to $1,200 or more if follow-up staging x-rays, blood works, and other related lab works are necessary.

Comprehensive tests can be expensive like the one shared by a dog owner who was quoted $2,500 for the MRI of their dog with basal cell carcinoma on the foot.

  • X-Ray

This method involving electromagnetic radiation is used for getting a clear view of dense parts of the body like bones; also the chest and digestive tract. Lakeside Veterinary Hospital in Illinois charges $60 to $250 for digital x-rays.

  • Ultrasound

After x-rays, an ultrasound is the second most popular diagnostic tool for canine cancer. The use of soundwaves aid in the real-time examination of the dog’s internal tissues. This procedure also helps in seeing organs from different angles, as well as organ function and blood flow that x-rays cannot provide.

An abdominal ultrasound will cost you around $200 to $300.

  • CT Scan

To show tissue density variations and assess more intricate body parts, a CT scan may be ordered by the veterinarian. Also known as an cat scan, this computer-enhanced x-ray procedure is used to detect structural changes deep within the body; including tumors.

Royal Vista Vets in Colorado offers CT scan with a price range of $650 to $1,300 depending on the site and the dog’s weight and $275 for an additional site.

  • MRI

The latest diagnostic imaging technique used to detect canine cancer is the MRI or magnetic resonance imaging. Using a strong magnetic field, the MRI machine will give out comprehensive anatomic images of the dog’s scanned body part.

It is mostly used to get a proper look at the brain and spine and to recognize subtle pathology that does not show up in simpler scans. Veterinary Care Specialists in Milford Michigan offers low-cost MRI at $1200. You can expect to pay up to $3500 for an MRI for your dog.

Treatment Costs for Canine Cancers

There are three conventional options of cancer treatment;  surgery (to remove the tumor), chemotherapy (to kill the cancer), and radiation (to kill the tumor). A veterinarian will create a diagnostic and treatment plan according to your dog’s case and your family’s financial capacity.

Your dog’s case such as age and general health, type of tumor, biological behavior of the tumor, and the stage of the cancer are then carefully considered. Every dog’s case is typically unique from the other and so with the cost. 

Standard physical exams alone cost at least $50, while inpatient care is $40. For emergency services, urgent care and a specialist consultation would amount to $115.

Some pet owners have spent a total of $6,000 for hospitalization and tests alone while another has spent $11,000 for open chest surgery to remove mass with mass bleeding which caused pulmonary edema.

Depending on the cancer as well, you may be advised to use a combination of treatments such as both surgery and chemotherapy for your dog, as is commonly the case with Osteosarcomas for example.

  • Surgery

Surgery is by far the treatment of choice to date. Unfortunately, surgery can only be used for tumors that are easily accessible and which haven’t metastasized yet. There’s a wide range in cost based on the location of the masses and difficulty of the procedure, as well as if any further procedures are needed.

In general, they start at around $1,000 in the case of dog mammary tumor removal costs and can be as much as $5,000 on average for surgeries requiring reconstruction of surrounding tissue following removal. Other types can cost as high as $12,000.

As an example, a dog owner has shared in a forum (naturaldoghealthremedies.com) in September, 2017 that she needed $5,000 for the surgery of her dog’s thyroid cancer.

More affordable cancer surgeries are being offered in some areas. Countryside Animal Hospital in Maryland offers general tumor removal from $165, including radical mastectomy for breast cancer at $455.

Sun-Surf Animal Hospital in Florida also has tumor mass removal services starting at $150.

To obtain the most conclusive diagnosis, a biopsy should be performed on the tumor. The cells and tissues of the sample will be examined on a microscope by a veterinary pathologist.

Results will show if a tumor is benign or malignant and will determine your next step. A biopsy costs $180 at Jarrettsville Veterinary Center in Maryland. 

Following a standard tumor removal surgery, your dog will take 10-14 days to recover. At which time, your dog should wear a cone to prevent it from licking the wound. Running and roughhousing are also not allowed to avoid the stitches from popping out. 

If the cancer has already spread or your dog is weak and cannot handle such an intensive procedure, then a surgery might not be an option.

  • Chemo

For more aggressive types of cancer, including those that metastasized or those without a specific location (i.e. blood and lymph), chemotherapy is the typical route. 

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells in the system and slow disease progression. These medications can be given orally, intravenously, or intratumorally. Dog chemotherapy is similar to the treatment used for people.

In dogs, unlike in humans however, chemo tends to be less taxing. In fact, only about 25% of dogs treated with chemo will exhibit negative side effects from it. A common misconception is that chemotherapy will make your dog go bald and seem sicker. In fact, there is minimal to no hair thinning and only temporary diarrhea or vomiting.

Your dog may also be given chemotherapy prior to a tumor removal surgery to help reduce the size of the tumor; or after the surgery to ensure that there are no remaining or residual cancer cells.

The cost is contingent on the particular medication used, which is determined by the type of cancer, and the number of rounds of chemo needed, which is determined by the size of your dog. Additionally, the price depends on if the drug is given orally or by IV.

Oral chemotherapy drugs such as Leukeran (chlorambucil) given for leukemia and lymphoma is priced at $40 for 25 tablets, Palladia (toceranib phosphate) for mast cell tumors is $5 per tablet, generic prednisone for various cancer types is $0.25 per tablet.

The cost of chemo for dogs will range anywhere from $150 to $1,000 per session. Meaning, for a full 3 to 6-month regiment of chemo (which is the average length), a pet owner may end up paying $2,000 to over $10,000.

For example, in the same forum, another dog owner shared that an oncologist price for chemotherapy is $4,000 for a tumor. The statement added that a vet offered instead to administer chemotherapy at $130 per treatment.

Another pet owner shared that they were quoted 16 rounds of chemo within 6 months for $5,000.

  • Radiation

Another option is radiation treatment. This is a series of targeted radiation sessions to kill the tumor. Cancer cells’ DNA is exposed to ionizing radiation which results in cell death. 

Cancer cells are constantly dividing. Radiation therapy will thwart or at least slow the process and control tumor growth.

Conventional radiation therapy may be performed in place of chemotherapy following or prior to tumor removal. The procedure requires 15 to 21 sessions over 3 to 7 weeks. 

For palliative care, an animal may need 3 – 6 sessions, while curative therapies may require up to 15.

Dog radiation therapy price is between $750 and $7,500+ for the entire duration of treatment. The costs depend on the number of sessions needed. Most radiation treatment courses will fall between $2,000 and $6,000.

Another pet owner has shared to have paid $5,000 for the radiation and medication of their dog; exclusive of the cost of initial diagnosis.

NC State Veterinary Hospital charges $4,700 to $5,300 for three sessions of stereotactic radiosurgery against bone cancer and $6,500 and $7,500 for 20 sessions of full-course radiation therapy.

A course of stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT) consisting of 1-3 treatments typically administered over 1-5 weekdays can cost $5,500 to $6,500. Lastly, a course radiation therapy delivered with intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) for 18-20 daily treatments costs $6,000 to $7,500.

Immediate side effects of radiation include superficial skin and mucous membrane irritation. Hair loss is common but only occurs in the treatment area and typically regrows.

Eyes and ears are more sensitive when exposed to radiation and may produce severe adverse reactions.

To prevent these untoward events, the veterinarian will need to accurately calculate the amount of radiation being given to each dog. It is also recommended to spread out the dosage over weeks and give it in small but effective amounts.

Cancer Treatment Costs for Canine Cancers

In addition to diagnosis and treatment, there are supportive care costs to consider.

  • Food Cost

Post-surgery diet that can be different from the usual nutrition is a vital factor so that your dog can recover as soon as possible. You may feed a canine recovery food that costs around $60 per bag. Always refer to the vet for the proper diet.

  • Supplement Cost

Dog cancer supplements can be a good holistic care for your dog since they can slow down the growth of cancer and boost the immune system. Price ranges from $25 per month for cheaper supplements up to $100 to $200 per month for certain expensive variety.

There are also packages of dog cancer supplements that consist of a variety of content combinations. Each package may cost from $147 to $397 good for months.

  • Hygiene Cost

Bringing your furry friend home after surgery means a duty to bring forth healing to the wound. A 250ml saline solution that cost $13 is good for washing the wound clean.

Alternatively, warm water and a towel can be good enough in some cases.

  • Medical Cost

Post-operative care for your dog means successive trips to the vet. As of now, the standard cost of an office visit and physical examination ranges from $45 to $50 per appointment.

Non-chemotherapy medications also have a major role in your dog’s recovery. Expect that you’ll be spending an average cost of $30 to $250 per month in total.

For example, pain management medications can run about $20 to $50 a month, and some animals may also need supplemental antibiotics or similar medications that can cost approximately $30 to $50 monthly, among others.

  • Accessories

To avoid your dog from infecting the wound by constantly licking it, you may have to purchase an Elizabethan collar that can cost from $10 to $40. These protective collars hinder your dog from causing further damage to the wound.

vet holding puppy

What Affects Dog Cancer Treatments Price?

Obviously, the specific cost to fully treat cancer is incredibly variable. This is because there are many different types of cancer, which affect different parts of the body in different ways, and which progress at different rates.

Reportedly, the top 5 dog cancers are known to be the following: mast cell tumors, melanoma, lymphoma, bone cancer, and hemangiosarcoma. These cancerous tumors can grow in any part of a dog’s body but early detection is the key towards treatment and cure.

Depending on these factors and after a discussion with a veterinary oncologist, there are several main treatment routes one can take, all of which have associated costs.

The location, the type or the severity of cancer mostly affect it, among other factors.

The cost of surgery, for example, can be determined by the surgical time and the intricacy of the surgery. The shorter and the easier the surgery is, the cheaper the cost.

Chemotherapy treatment uses chemical agents (e.g. drugs) to treat or control cancer. In this case, the quantity and the kinds of drugs being administered can affect the entire cost.

Also, the size of your dog can also be a factor since bigger dogs require larger amounts of drugs. Lastly, the duration of treatment necessary in the case of your dog can also be a contributing factor to the entire amount of chemotherapy cost.

Due to the cost of equipment and the complexity of the process, radiation therapy is typically more expensive. This is because of the malignancy of cancer and the number of sessions necessary for remission.

Take note that your location also plays a role in a variety of cost. For example, Los Angeles veterinarians usually charge more than the vets from Indiana.

Additionally, AAHA-accredited clinics are often more expensive since they must meet strict standards. However, these standards ensure that your dog gets the best care possible.

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