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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

Discover the Full Spectrum Approach to Dog Cancer

Leave a Comment

  1. Mari on October 17, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    My dog has a tumor growing onbher chest for yearsvbut we never took her to the vet becuase we were scared she wouldn’t make it. What do I do!

  2. Sheeba on October 3, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Hello Dr. Dressler,
    My golden retriever Sheeba is 11 1/2 years old, tumors on her liver and spleen were just found by ultrasound. She did not show any symptoms of cancer, other than out of range bloodwork, which led to the ultrasound. Would surgery really work for a dog her age and in her condition? Would she live for years? I don’t want to put her though a lot if it’s only going to buy a few weeks. Thank you, Chris

  3. Barb on March 25, 2013 at 2:04 am

    Our 12 yr. old lab has many lipomas and a basketball size mass growing in her belly. She was failing two months ago after the vet gave her meds to help with arthritis, resulting in vomiting and loss of appetite. Once we took her off the meds she bounced back. Yet her liver enzymes, already high, have doubled in 2 mos. A week ago one of the tumors broke through and is a weepy mess. They won’t do surgery because of her liver enzyme and she might die under anesthesia. But our dog is miserable and keeps trying to bite the would. Should we go to another vet?

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on March 26, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      Dear Barb, I would check on liver function testing and bleeding tests which the liver disease can impact, which would then impact surgery. If these are ok, and the other blood work is okay as well, and an abdominal ultrasound shows that we don’t have an inoperable tumor, and otherwise your dog is healthy, I would consider the surgery personally. However, i have done a fair amount of surgery so my comfort level may be higher than others. A second opinion never hurts! Don’t forget about the other ways of dealing with tumors in dogs too…see this blog:
      I hope this helps
      Dr D

  4. JEFF on June 23, 2012 at 1:06 am

    we have a13 year old yorki she has lumps alone her teats they have cancer cels in the lumps the vet said she needs operation at a cost of 700 pounds is this good for a dog this old and can this work please .

  5. Fane Tsanos on October 22, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Ok i will be sure to thank you.

  6. Fane Tsanos on October 16, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    Hi my dog has a couple of pink circle things kinda looks like ticks and it get bigger and bigger it isnt that big but it looks like it is , can it be a tumor ? I adore this dog he has saved mine and my sisters life we cant lose him he means the world to me , he has gotten hit by a car before but he has recovered well could that affect anything ? We rescued him so we dont have any medical papers i think we got him when he was 4 please if theres any information that you can give us please do thank you .

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on October 20, 2011 at 8:05 pm

      Dear Fane
      please take your dog to the veterinarian. He means a lot to you and deserves good medical care. It could be a skin infection, a tumor, bleeding on the inside, fungal infections, or a variety of other issues. Get it checked out please

  7. Jay on March 31, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    I am having the same exact issues with my 13yr old dog as MATT above, they have drained fluid (almost a liter) from around the lungs and heart, and today drained the actual sac I guess..
    They say the only other step is a surgery to remove the sac or something..I havent paid much attention, because I have been so bummed out about the whole situation. I am so confused, because it may work or may continue to build up….anyone have other thoughts or ideas?
    thank you,

  8. Matt on March 3, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Our dog has been diagnosed with a large tumor near her heart. She passed out today apparently from pressure on her heart due to internal bleeding I believe from the tumor. The tumor i apparently half the size of her heart and the blood is filling the sac around the heart. They have drained the fluid and she is now home but we were told that trying to remove the tumor so close to the heart is almost always fatal and she is . Do you have any guidance for me? Thanks so much. She is the most special dog and we don’t want to lose her.

    • DemianDressler on March 8, 2011 at 9:55 pm

      Dear Matt,
      this is really tough. Is she on any cardiac medications? Have you started the dog cancer diet (free download on top of this site page)? Any supplements from the Guide?
      Removal of these tumors, I am sorry to say, is often not possible. Be strong in this difficult time,
      Dr D

  9. Vanessa on July 2, 2010 at 9:40 am

    What is the success rate about surgery on a tumor at the anal gland?

  10. terry on September 12, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    lumps on stomach not attached non painful

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