Chemotherapy for Senior Dogs

Making the right decision is difficult when it comes to older dogs and cancer.


Q: Our 14-year-old Border Collie was just diagnosed with mediastinal lymphoma after collapsing several times while running. Our veterinarian gave us the option of an MRI and chemotherapy, but given the poor prognosis, we have chosen just to give her prednisone to keep her comfortable. She still goes on daily walks with us and enjoys her food, but I know she is uncomfortable when she lies down as she whines a great deal before settling into sleep. Do you think we are making the right decision not to pursue chemo with a senior dog?

A: These end-of-life issues lead to some very difficult decisions for dog owners. We see many of these cases after-hours because owners are so concerned about whether their dogs are suffering.

Chemotherapy is very hard on people and dogs, and anyone who has experienced it firsthand is familiar with the ups and downs.

One of the hard realities to consider is that, at 14, life expectancy is very limited. If I were your veterinarian, I would be working closely with you to keep your Border Collie as comfortable as possible at home, creating a hospice-like environment.
Pain management with drugs would be crucial. Ask your vet to prescribe some pain-relieving drugs to help make your dog more comfortable. I would encourage you to continue taking her on walks, but keep them very short. Offer the best food possible, and make sure she has a very comfortable bed to rest in. Multiple trips to the veterinary hospital are not something your dog would probably look forward to, and it is very questionable whether the benefits would even be significant.

Jon Geller, DVM


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Debra   Australia, YT

5/30/2012 1:28:41 AM

My 12yr old Maltese x has bladder cancer, the has discussed chemo with me but I am not going ahead but taking a holistic approach with K9Immunity & K9Tranfer, DHA, Inositol,Dr. Steven Eissen's cancer diet & vascustatin which is known to shrink tumors. Other than that we will keep him comfortable with the least amount of stress. I think I will know when the time comes when I must say goodbye to the love of my life

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Jane   Concord, MA

4/22/2012 5:20:57 PM

My Golden Retriever, Orion, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma last November. He is 13 years old. We agonized what to do and finally decided to have his leg amputated and undergo 6 carboplatin treatments. They gave him 2 months to live without any treatment; his lungs are cancer free so far and he has responded well to treatments. He has had 5 treatments, one to go. Being a tripawd at age 13 is challenging for him, but he does enjoy walking and being outside. It's hard work but I would do it again in a minute since we have already enjoyed 4 months with him that we wouldn't have had and he seems pain free. The oncologist said you shouldn't go by chronological age in making your decision but physiological age. Do your homework and make the right decision for your dog and family, but don't assume too old is too old to fight cancer. We hope Orion makes his 14 birthday in July.

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Monica   Newcastle, MS

2/14/2012 6:07:19 AM

My Sister has a 10 year old boerboel. A week ago Tequila was diagnosed with Hypercalcemia and adenacarcinoma. Other than being a little overweight, Tequila is healthy and still has a good apetite. The vet in our home town can only provide chemotherapy. Radiation is offered in a town 4 hours away. The vet also advises that if they operate on Tequila She will not be able to go to the toilet and the operation may cause more complications. The lump is growing fast. Please advise on the best route to follow Doctor. This is so surreal and a real nightmare. We want Tequila to be as happy and comfortable as

best regards, Monica Raghoo

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Jo ann   Brooklyn, NY

11/13/2011 1:29:43 PM

My 12 year old rottweiler was just diagnois with cancer. They suggested chemo. I'm so confused I don't no what to do the stories I've read just hurt my heart. I'm not sure what to do. This dog is my child I wish I could take all this away.

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