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

Dog Tumor Surgery: It Matters

Updated: December 24th, 2018

Many dogs afflicted with cancer face a surgery.  In spite of how far we have come in medical science, our most reliable way of getting rid of canine cancer is still a bit old fashioned: cut it out.

Indeed, most of the time surgical removal is the treatment of choice for tumor cure in the dog.

This may be a bit of a surprise to many dog lovers.  One of the reasons for this surprise is that we have a difference between veterinary medicine and human medicine that should be appreciated.

In human medicine, we can sometimes rely on chemotherapy, radiation, or other non-surgical treatments to yield a cure for cancer, or something close to it.

This is is contrast to dogs however.  In veterinary medicine, tools like radiation and chemotherapy, or newer conventional techniques like cancer vaccines, open-cell polylactic acid polymer placement, samarium treatment, stereotactic radiotherapy, brachytherapy…the list goes on…all of these are aimed at palliation.

Palliation is defined as a reduction in the signs and symptoms of a disease. The word comes from the Latin palliare, which means, “to cloak”.

So when we are talking about all of these treatments for cancer, none of them, at least not now, are capable of cancer cure for the aggressive cancers.

For more helpful tools and information, get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide

And it is the aggressive cancers that are the ones treated with all of these advanced techniques, or vanilla chemo and radiation.

Which puts us in a bit of a bind, since we do see, from time to time, heavy-duty side effects in some dogs.  All for palliation, but no cure.

All except surgery.

If your vet is talking about surgery for your loved canine companion’s tumor surgery, listen up.  It may be the only way for a true cure.  Most of these surgeries, if done by a skilled practitioner, turn out very well.

Our four (or sometimes three) legged friends are up and going again with tails wagging in a short time.

For more details on dog cancer surgery and things to watch out for, check out the dog cancer book at .


Dr D

Leave a Comment

  1. Blair on May 30, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Hi, my 12 year old female mix breed had surgery 72hrs ago. They removed a mass that was located on a lobe located on the left of her liver. She also had several stones removed from her bladder. They believe the mass is hepatocelluar carcinoma but won’t know for sure until the biopsy comes back. The bladder stones were also sent off for biopsy. They also stated that she is showing signs of cushings disease which they couldn’t properly diagnosed until her liver mass was taken care of. My concern is that she is refusing to eat anything and is very lethargic. She had diarrhea the day she was discharged which was 48hrs ago so I took her in to her regular vet (surgery was performed at the veterinarian teaching school and hospital). Her vet took a blood sample and checked her platelets. They were a little low but not by much. Although she wasn’t truly dehydrated they went ahead and administered some fluids under the skin. They also gave her an injection for nausea and to settle her stomach in case that was reason for not eating. The diarrhea has stopped. She is also on tramadol for pain. I knew she wouldn’t be up and running 72hrs after surgery but I figured she would at least be able to make it outside to potty without me carrying her from her pillow. As far as her refusing to eat I have cooked everything that she loved prior to surgery. She will not eat it. Her vet gave me some cans of hills I/D and I have resorted to syringe feeding it to her. I just want to know if any has experienced anything similar with their fur baby after major surgery.

  2. Susan Kazara Harper on October 22, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    You go to the vet. I’m sorry, but being afraid it is bad news, doesn’t stop it from being bad news, it only means you don’t know and can’t help her. If you want to help your dog you need a diagnosis. Knowing is better than being afraid. Please make her an appointment.

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