It’s one of the worst pieces of news a pet parent can hear: your dog or cat has cancer.
Once you’ve been hit with the news–the emotional equivalent of being knocked out with a bulldozer–your thoughts will most likely turn to: “What do I do next?”
Kristin Levine, a pet living expert, writes some sound advice on her website: “If your dog or cat ever does receive this dreaded diagnosis, don’t panic! As hard as it might be to do, staying calm is the best way you can help yourself and your pet.”
1. Ask questions–and make sure you get answers
This seems obvious, but when it comes to the health of your pet (and yourself, for that matter), you must take a proactive role. Ask questions about the prognosis, treatment, and costs. Get all the answers you’re looking for, and if something seems off, don’t be afraid to speak up and question it. A truly understanding doctor will patiently explain every detail to you until you’re comfortably crystal-clear.
2. Get a second opinion
Whether from another vet or veterinary oncologist, making sure that multiple vet’s opinions match up will ensure that the original diagnosis was accurate. On the flip side, if diagnoses or details differ, you’ll know that something is amiss. The more informed you are about your pet’s diagnosis, the better you can come up with a game plan.
3. Follow the treatment plan
Once you have a clear idea of the situation and you’re working with a vet that you trust, make sure to follow the plan that you’re given. Some treatment plans may include timely medications, vet visits, even some healthy dietary changes.
4. Prepare your finances
In her article, Levine says that if you already have a pet insurance policy that covers cancer treatment, you should be good to go, at least for the most part. If not, make sure you talk to your vet about payment plans that they offer before starting treatment. Levine also suggests looking into CareCredit, a credit card designed to help you finance health needs, including those for pets. One other option: if you can’t afford the treatment, check with local nonprofit organizations to see if they’ll help cover some bills.
4. Maintain your routine–including exercising your pet
Dogs and cats find comfort in routine, so now, more than ever, you should stick with it. This includes the continuation or addition of daily exercise, if they’re able. Just because your pet got a diagnosis doesn’t mean that all healthy habits should go out the window. In fact, quite the opposite.
5. Surround yourself with support
Pets are family, and when a family member becomes ill, you depend on a support system to stay strong and positive. Surround yourself with good people and good vibes. Chances are, there are loved ones in your life who has gone through the same thing–or something similar–to what you’re going through now.
6. Stay optimistic
For you and your pet’s sake, do your best to stay positive. Of course, this isn’t easy. Remember, your furry family member doesn’t know what’s going on, but she will notice if you become depressed. When she senses that something is terribly wrong, she’ll start to harbor feelings of anxiety and sadness, which aren’t good for her health.
Keep both your spirits up by doing what makes you two happy, whether it’s planning more pet play dates, stocking up on favorite treats, or making time to do more of your favorite activities together! A good way to rally hope is to read up on inspiring stories of survival, and remember that many medical advances have been made in the treatment of cat and canine cancer. “Cancer” doesn’t have to be a death sentence!
7. Create a bucket list
No, this does not have to mean that you’ve “accepted” death. What it does mean is that you’re making sure that your pet is getting the most out of his life, whether he’s got 3 more weeks or 10 more years. Knowing that your pet is living every day to the fullest will help you be at peace when the time does come.
8. Cherish your time together
This is one that every pet owner should keep in mind! Our time on earth is fleeting, especially the time that we have with our pets; there could never be enough. Then, when the day comes for your furry best friend to cross the Rainbow Bridge, you’ll know that you made the most out of every moment you had together.