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

My Dog is Young…and Has Cancer??

Updated: October 12th, 2018

These days cancers in young dogs do not seem to be that rare.  And they are especially difficult since it is such a shock.  Often we have the perception that things like this do not happen, or should not happen. Yet we are faced with this brutal reality that seems impossible to accept and even harder to deal with.

Let’s look at a few variations on dealing with cancer in the young dog that can help you and your loved dog in this journey together. (For more detail in each of these steps, read the Guide.)

First, emotional management is critical for you so you can be an effective guardian.  The internal anguish that a guardian will experience can cripple the ability to think clearly and function normally.  Get help and support to let go of some of the feelings that make things even more difficult than they are already.  Part of this emotional management might be to get a second opinion, and it could be a good idea medically as well.

Next will be educating yourself on the cancer, what it does, and what some of the statistics are for this cancer, with the different treatments.  Some young dog cancers include mast cell tumors, lymphosarcoma, histiocytic sarcoma, and a variety of hard-to-classify, rapidly growing undifferentiated cancers.  Undifferentiated means the cancer does not look much like anything else in the body and it can be difficult to classify.

Treatment plan analysis is next.  Here, we evaluate what the life expectancy of our dog would be without the cancer, and compare it to the gained life expectancy of the treatment we are considering. I lean towards being more aggressive with treatments in the young canine cancer patient.  The reason is their life expectancy with cancer is so much less than their normal life expectancy, I feel tolerating some side effects in the short term are justified.

Another reason for being more aggressive with treatments in young cancer patients is their cancers are often  tougher.  And make no mistake, tough cancer is quite tough. Under these circumstances, those with aversion to either conventional treatments or alternative treatments are advised to dump treatment prejudice into the trash.

Since chemotherapy is a common discussion, be sure to discuss ways to lessen side effects of chemotherapy with your oncologist.  These may be as simple as neusea medications, but you may also want to consider the side effect supplements discussed in the Guide such as coenzyme Q-10 for doxorubicin, cordyceps for CCNU and cisplatin, magnesium for cisplatin, ginger for nausea, and so on.

You will also want to remember the test for drug sensitivity called the MDR-1 mutation.  This is especially true if you have a  breed with a higher chance of this genetic issue.

Most of all, remember to deliberately increase your young dog’s life quality every day.  Do something for your dog, and invest some energy in this.  It does wonders for both your canine companion and your soul.


Dr D






Leave a Comment

  1. Ron on September 1, 2022 at 8:24 am

    Our 4 year old Boston Terrier Anna was just diagnosed during a lump removal. We are devastated and shocked. I authorized tumor removal as planned rather than biopsy and create a plan with oncologist. Hope and Pray she will be Fully cured.

  2. Darcy on March 28, 2012 at 1:57 am

    Great advice! I have a 4-year osteosarcoma survivor who was diagnosed at just over 3 years old. Without having the benefit of knowing about Dr. D’s book and blog at the time of Bart’s diagnosis I accepted assistance & support, left no stone unturned (utilizing traditional & non-traditional treatments), treated the cancer aggressively and, most importantly, made each and every day the best day of our lives – it was worth it!!

    I am glad that Dr. D is putting out such great practical advice for how to handle something like this because for most of us it is shocking and we don’t know what to do.


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