I have been focusing a bit on osteosarcoma, since this is a common cancer.
This info applies to any big surgery involving cancer in dogs though. I thought that a few bits of vet-only knowledge would be nice for dog owners. That way you can discuss the important topic of pain control at the time of a major cancer surgery.
Before the procedure, you might want touch base with the vet about pain control. Pain is a major negative in life quality.
Different vets will have different ideas on pain control. Those those a bit more on the ball will most definitely be giving pain control a priority.
More modern vets will use a CRI, which is a Constant Rate Infusion of pain controlling drugs. This is a nice thing to do. It means the drugs are constantly flowing into the body through the IV.
Some will give an epidural, which is an injection of pain controlling drugs into the fluid around the spinal cord. Another nice technique to use in combo with other drugs.
Many use a Fentanyl patch, which is a fairly good way to control pain. You have the patch applied to the dog a day or so before the surgery and it releases fentanyl through the skin. I like to combine it with some other agents for pain control.
My opinion is that one or more of these be used for major cancer surgeries, along with injections of other drugs as needed after the surgery.
Good options for take-home meds are sustained-release morphine and tramadol. These should be combined with some anti inflammatory like metacam or possibly deramaxx or rimadyl.
Some vets really into new stuff will start the dog on Gabapentin before surgery, or possibly amitriptyline. You can start these days before surgery and they can help with pain control in combination with other drugs.
Drugs I don’t like for real pain in major dog cancer surgery? Buprenex (buprenorphine), only a moderately strong drug, not a big enough gun in my opinion. Torbugesic (torbutrol) in dogs for take-home pain control is too wimpy and too short-acting.
So, the take home message? First, control that pain! Multimodal analgesia, or using different ways to accomplish pain control is where it is at.
So be your dog’s health advocate and make sure pain is under control.
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.