How Much Does Cancer Treatment for Dogs Cost?

Written by: Staff

Cancer treatment for dogs includes a series of procedures used to treat or remove cancer cells that form over time.  Normally, about 50 percent of all tumors found in dogs are in the skin, while 20 percent are in the mammary glands. 10 percent are found in the alimentary system.

Labrador pup by smerikal, on Flickr
Labrador pup” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by smerikal

How much does cancer treatment for a dog cost?

The cost of cancer treatment for a dog will depend on so many factors such as the type of cancer, the stage, the severity and the size of the dog if it’s receiving chemotherapy.  There are three common ways to fight cancer:  via chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.  The initial diagnosis with tests, without any treatment, can cost $800 to $2,000.  These high costs will be due to blood work, x-rays and vet visits.

Chemotherapy, which will be a treatment used to attack cancer, just like it would with a human being.  This process will depend on the medication being used, the rounds needed and the size of your dog.  Most dog owners claim they paid anywhere from $5,000 to more than $11,000 for a complete series of chemotherapy treatments, with each treatment costing about $750 to $1,100.

Radiation, another way to fight cancer, will fight tumors that can’t be accessed with surgery because of the complex location.  Radiation will usually be administered two times per week and will be needed for up to five weeks.  Each session will last about 30 minutes and the entire series of radiation can cost $4,500 to close to $8,500.

Surgery, another popular option, will be done if a tumor is present and it can easily be accessed to be removed.  While surgery isn’t going to get rid of the tumor 100 percent of the time, it can prevent it from spreading.  Most doctors will recommend surgery as their first resort and a one-time surgery can cost $2,000 to more than $8,000.

Dogs that have had lymphoma have had total treatment bills that have been in the $16,000 to $25,000 range.

All of the costs mentioned above can greatly vary depending on where you live and the doctor you’re visiting.  While it can be hard to give an estimate over the phone, most vets can give you an “idea” when they are able to assess the situation.

On, one reader shared 10 tips and claimed her overall costs were $10,000.

Dr. David Vail, a veterinary oncologist, says a diagnosis can cost $1,000 to $2,000, while a course of chemotherapy can cost $3,000 to $5,000.  Radiation treatments for nasal and brain tumors can cost $6,000 to $10,000.  He also notes that some types of cancers, such as soft tissue sarcoma, could cost $9,000 once everything is said and done.

Cancer overview

If your vet does suspect cancer, he or she will run a series of tests that usually includes blood work, urine tests, x-rays and a tissue aspirate, which uses a needle to draw a sample from the tumor to be tested.  After these tests are completed, the vet will be able to confirm if cancer is present.

Before a treatment option is even considered after a confirmed diagnosis, a veterinarian will more than likely refer you to a local oncologist, a specialized veterinarian who will be able to create a treatment plan discussing what should be done, the success rate and the recovery period.

What are the extra costs?

Pain medication after all treatment sessions are completed can cost $20 to $150, depending on the medication being prescribed.  For instance, Palladia, a common drug used by dogs, can cost $3.99 for one 10 mg tablet.  To treat a 30-pound dog, for example, three dosages would be needed daily.

Tips to know

Since cancer can come in so many varieties, an oncologist is highly recommended since he or she will have the advanced education to fully discuss your treatment options, the recurrence rates and provide all the necessary treatments to hopefully get your dog healthy again.  CBS News proclaims there are only 300 veterinary oncologists in the United States, so it may be hard to find one in your area.

How can I save money?

If you purchased a pet insurance policy, then they may be able to offer some sort of financial assistance.  This will all depend on your policy and what’s included, so it’s best to talk with them to see what’s covered.  Most of the time, pet insurance policies will only cover accidents and cancer will have to be added as an add-on.  Even if it’s added on, there will still be a maximum they are willing to pay.

Cancer treatment isn’t cheap and to come up with this much money at once can be hard for just about anyone.  Talk with your vet to see if they offer any sort of financial assistance.  Even if they don’t, they may be able to point you in the direction of a company that may be able to offer a low-interest loan.

Search or look in your local area for a charitable group that may be able to help offset these costs.  The Pet Fund is one fund that may be able to help.

Always get at least two to three opinions before agreeing to a surgery.  Many pet owners find that even after the first surgery, a second surgery may be required, and just because one vet is insistent on one treatment, it doesn’t mean there won’t be other options.

Ask for a realistic outcome before investing thousands of dollars.  Even with a successful surgery, your dog, even if the cancer is gone, may only live for another year or so.  If the treatment costs will be north of $2,000, you will have to really sit back and think if the investment is worth it.

Clinical trials may be available if you’re close to a vet school or referral hospital.  These trials may be lower in cost and will help researchers – a win-win.

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