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

Pain in Dog Cancer and Life Quality

Updated: December 13th, 2018

Many have concerns their dog may be in pain.  And rightfully so, since pain is a definite negative.  Pain control is a massive topic all by itself, and it is by no means strait forward.

There are different kinds of pain. Sometimes  dull, throbbing pain happens in cancers like osteosarcoma (bone cancer).  Severe pain in the abdomen can occur with bleeding hemangiosarcomas (spleen tumors). Mast cell tumors likely produce burning pain in the skin or in other locations. Pressure-associated pain can happen with nasal tumors like fibrosarcomas.  Bladder tumors like transitional cell carcinomas cause burning and irritation leading to urgency to urinate.

There are different kinds of pain, and they respond to different treatments.  We have tablets, capsules, liquids, injections, infusions, transdermal patches, cold, heat, acupuncture, physical therapy, mental techniques, and more.

The best approaches to pain management are always multimodal, which means we attack the problem from different angles to achieve a better result. This is true for the drugs your veterinarian prescribes too.  Many times lower doses of multiple drugs are a lot better than higher doses of single drugs.

The perception of pain not only involves the tumor or cancer itself, but also what the brain and spinal cord do with those signals.  In some cases, pain can actually be amplified above and beyond what is expected by what is happening in the central nervous system (previous pain, anxiety, fear, depression, and others). These areas can be focused on too as part of a total pain control plan.

By combining approaches from different angles, you get a better result.  Less pain, better life quality! Ask you vet about combining different approaches.

Let’s look at more life quality topics in the next post.

Best to all,

Dr Dressler


Leave a Comment

  1. Susan Kazara Harper on March 11, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Hi Catherine, I know this is difficult; you don’t want your girl to be uncomfortable. There are a couple of things to consider. It’s great that you have an eye specialist who can help keep track of her condition. It’s possible that your girl squeals when the others bump into her because she feels vulnerable, and/or because she can’t see very well. She may also be picking up on your loving concern and feeling both her years and her condition, whether or not pain is involved. You know her better than anyone, and better than the best vet. Do you have any way to take a short video of her when she exhibits this behaviour? A smart phone, or a friend or family member with a phone who would do this for you? It can be invaluable for your vet to see what you see. If there is pain present there are often other signs like panting, distancing herself from activity, lack of appetite, reluctant to play or enjoy things etc. And sometimes there isn’t. Our dogs are masters at masking signs of weakness. Trust your gut, but please don’t get wrapped up in a lot of worry which won’t help either of you. All the best, Susan

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