Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

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How Old Is Too Old to Treat Dog Cancer?

dog-too-old-for-cancer-treaI hear this question a lot:

“Isn’t my dog too old to treat for cancer?”

The answer is: No!

Age is not a disease. I have many 12-plus year old patients that are otherwise healthy and strong. They may have some early kidney disease, a heart murmur, thyroid disease, arthritis, but they are still good cancer patients.

If your dog is older, please, don’t assume he or she can’t or won’t tolerate treatment. See an oncologist, get the big picture, and then decide. But don’t think just because your pet is “old” he cannot tolerate treatment, and more importantly live longer and live better with treatment than without.

Even if you decide against conventional treatments, there are still many, many things you can do to help your dog with cancer. Steps two through five in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide apply to all dogs — even older ones!

Live longer, live well,

Dr Sue

About the Author: Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology)


Susan Ettinger, DVM. Dip. ACVIM (Oncology) is a veterinarian oncologist at Animal Specialty Center in New York and the co-author of Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog's Life Quality and Longevity. She blogs about dog cancer at http://www.DogCancerBlog.com.

  • cynthia bridgewater

    My little girl was 10 1/2 years old when she was diagnosed with a thyroid tumor to large to remove but with treatment she was able to live 3 years. Except for a few brief periods when she didn’t feel well during or after treatment her quality of life was excellent. She died at 13 1/2 years of heart disease.

  • Mary Emmons

    Thank you for this post. My AB needs to have more MCT’s removed and due to his age, arthritis, and being overweight I was scared to have him go under anesthesia. My vet said the same thing as you. . he is not too old and she recommends removing them. Thanks again for the reasurrance!

  • hopeful

    My dachshund had anal gland cancer surgery in October of 2012. He celebrated one-year cancer free in October 2013, and he will be 14 years old in March. He is otherwise happy and healthy. .We are so grateful.

    • tarheelandwolfan

      What a happy story! :) I have an almost 8 year old dachshund that has a small mass on one of her anal glands. We have been watching it for about 5 months, and it has not changed in size. We cannot afford surgery yet, but are trying to figure out a way. My other baby is a miniature dachshund that is 10 1/2. He has a plasmacytoma that will need to be removed. I am taking him to an oncologist for a consultation and go from there. This is definitely a time I wish I were rich! My pups would have the best care possible. So happy your little dachshund is 14 and thriving. :) I hope mine make it to 14 and beyond. Happy 2014.

  • Trish

    I chose not to treat a 15 year-old dog diagnosed with lymphoma. The treatment protocol was 26 weeks long, and I couldn’t be certain that he’d 1) tolerate it well or 2) if he was going to live that long had he not gotten cancer. It was hard not to fight for him, but in a way I was surprised at how strongly the oncologist recommended the treatment. I found a canine lymphoma group online and after following stories of much younger dogs who died regardless of treatment, I was relieved that we went with a more conservative approach and had three good months with him. We had a 13 year-old (who didn’t seem a day over 7) with melanoma and treated it as recommended and while we didn’t win the battle, we enjoyed 18 more months with him. These decisions have to be based on what’s best for the dog first, and you have to know your dog well enough to know what he or she can tolerate. Not all dogs age the same, but in my case, we made different choices based on the quality of life we felt could be maintained. Do your research and know if cancer protocol is right for your dog and your situation.

  • Arlene W

    I have my Golden, Heidi, who was diagnosed with lymphoma last year at age 15. We went with chemotherapy and she was in remission for 10 months, including when she was receiving her treatments. Unfortunately, she is now out of remission. I am considering more chemo. I am very intrigued by the metronomic chemochemo but my vet has a different rescue protocol. But, unfortunately, because of her depressed immune system, she has also developed demodectic mange. That has improved a lot with treatment. The last skin scraping only showed 1 live mite. My vet says we can’t do any kind of chemo until 3 negative scrapings. That is at least 3 weeks. I don’t know if she will even live that long. Is he right? Does the mange disqualify her from further chemo? Thank you in advance, Dr. Ettinger.

  • Amy Kennedy

    Hi, My 9 yr old Golden had a Maxilectomy 14 months ago to remove the cancer in her jaw, as far as we knew it was all gone , but just this past week I can smell that funny odour coming from the side of her mouth that had cancer, we went back to the vets but my first question was, Are we going to put her through this again and have more of her jaw removed if it is cancer?? From there we are going to take the steps depending on what our choice is. for now she is on Medacam to see if that help. I don’t know if I can do that to her again?? thanks