It is never easy getting the diagnosis that your dog is suffering from cancer. It usually means that the owner may have to say goodbye to their best friend or that they will have to go through chemotherapy and surgery.
Luckily, oncology in veterinary medicine has advanced so much in the last 10 years allowing dogs and owners to have more time together. But, at what cost?
Types of tumors in dogs
Before we can discuss what treatment options are used in dogs for this condition, let’s learn about tumors and cancer. Owners usually get confused once they hear the T word but it is always good to stay sharp and listen to the vet until the end. Why is this important? Because not all tumors are bad.
Benign tumors are types of growths that don’t spread in the surrounding tissue and they do not leave metastasis in other organs. This means that there is a good possibility of them being removed or treated using different methods.
Malignant tumors, also known as cancer, are the opposite of benign tumors. They can spread easily through metastasizing in the surrounding tissue or even in other organs throughout the body. Sometimes they can be quite aggressive, meaning they can grow quite fast, causing a lot of issues for the dog.
What is CyberKnife and is it used in dogs?
CyberKnife is a term used for advanced technology that allows SRT to be successful. SRT stands for Stereotactic Radiation Therapy, which is a cutting edge of radiotherapy treatment used in human medicine and is now available in veterinary medicine too. It is a non-invasive procedure, meaning there is no surgery and cutting involved. Just a robot that knows what its doing.
Stereotactic radiation therapy treatment is considered to be one of the best methods for cancer treatment, however, owners should be aware that not all types of cancer and tumors can be treated this way. The positive side of this method is that it is highly location targeted, which means that there is less chance for healthy tissue surrounding cancer to be killed as well.
Another positive side of this treatment method is that dogs usually feel quite normal after this. Nausea or vomiting or lethargy is not as often seen as in other therapy methods. The dog usually requires anesthesia during the procedure, so it may be drowsy for the next couple of hours until the anesthetics have completely been metabolized.
Treatment procedure with CyberKnife in dogs
Once the vet has suggested this method as a possible treatment for your dog, there are a series of diagnostics that need to be run before the treatment can be done. Your dog will most likely need to be put under general anesthesia for lots of x-ray, CT, and MRI imaging and the reason for this is simple: in order for the CyberKnife to be as precise as it can be, it needs the exact location, shape, and size of the tumor.
CyberKnife is actually a robot that delivers radiation with a precision of 1 mm. This means that during the procedure an X-ray machine constantly takes photos and the tumor is targeted from around 140 angles, with a much higher dose of radiation than normal. The reason for this is that the radiation is only affecting the tumor itself and it is not damaging the surrounding cells and healthy tissue.
During the procedure, the patient needs to be extremely still which means that the patient will be under general anesthesia. But, compared to other treatment methods, this one does not last long.
In many cases, one treatment is usually not enough for the dog and the number of treatments is always individual. The dog will most certainly need new scans to be taken in the following days or weeks, to check on the progress of recovery and to take new measurements and localization of remaining cancer.
The owner must be aware that this treatment method is quite new which makes it expensive. Owners whose dogs undergo this type of treatment may end up paying up between $2000 and $9000, just for the treatment. Price will vary depending on the patient itself and the additional diagnostic procedures.