If your dog is diagnosed with cancer, you’re joining a fight that many other pet parents have undertaken. And beyond the stress, treatment can also be expensive—ranging from $10,000 to $30,000 for chemotherapy.
According to the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, nearly 10% of dogs in the United States will develop cancer at some point in their lives.
As your dog ages, the odds of a cancer diagnosis increase, with more than half of dogs over the age of 10 developing some form of cancer.
But a cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to be a death sentence, especially with the help of chemotherapy.
We’ll break down the costs, treatments, and more:
- How much does chemotherapy for dogs cost?
- What can affect the cost for chemotherapy for a dog?
- What are additional costs related to treating cancer in dogs?
- Can pet insurance cover the costs of chemotherapy?
- Helping your dog recover from cancer treatment
How much does chemotherapy for dogs cost?
Your dog’s vet or oncologist will usually administer chemotherapy in their office, and the total cost of chemotherapy treatments alone can range from $10,000 to $30,000.
But before your vet recommends or administers chemotherapy, your dog will, of course, first need to receive a cancer diagnosis, which can cost several hundred dollars or more.
Once your dog is diagnosed, your vet may refer you to a veterinary oncologist for an additional consultation. An oncologist has specialized knowledge about cancer in dogs and can help to create a treatment plan specialized to your dog’s needs.
The Veterinary Cancer Society reports that oncologist consultations can cost $125 to $250, and chemotherapy can cost from $150 per dose to $600 per dose. Some dogs will need multiple doses of chemotherapy a month, and treatments can last for many months or years, easily bringing total chemo costs to $10,000 or more.
What can affect the cost of chemotherapy for a dog?
Several factors can influence the treatment costs when your pup is facing cancer. Let’s take a look at them, one by one.
Location of cancer
The location of your dog’s cancer can make treatment more challenging, and therefore more costly. If the cancer is in a hard-to-reach location, like deep in your dog’s chest, chemotherapy treatments will cost more.
Size of the mass
The size of the mass can affect how much chemotherapy your dog needs. Larger masses will take longer to treat, meaning you will pay more for the chemotherapy.
Number of treatments needed
The number of chemo treatments that your dog needs will depend on how well your dog responds to the chemotherapy and how advanced and large the cancer is. More advanced and larger masses will require more treatments, which will drive up the total cost of the chemotherapy.
Types of drugs used
Your vet or oncologist can choose from several different chemotherapy drugs, including oral and IV options. These drugs may be combined, and the amount of the drug used will depend on your dog’s weight. Drug costs can vary, but the vet will choose the drug(s) that they feel has the best chance of working for your dog’s diagnosis.
There are currently three FDA-approved drugs to treat cancer in dogs, and one drug that is conditionally approved:
- Palladia was approved to treat mast cell tumors in 2009
- Stelfonta was approved to treat mast cell tumors in 2020
- Tanovea-CA1 was approved to treat lymphoma in 2021
- Laverdia-CA1 was conditionally approved to treat lymphoma in 2021
Veterinary clinic details
The cost of chemotherapy can also vary depending on the veterinary clinic that you use. Your location plays a role in veterinary costs, and oncologist costs can vary, with some offices charging more for chemotherapy and other services than others.
If you’re exploring your dog’s treatment options, consider calling several oncologists or veterinary practices to get quotes. You may be able to save money by strategically choosing where your dog will receive chemotherapy, but it’s also important to choose an office that’s a good overall fit for your dog’s needs.
What are additional costs related to treating cancer in dogs?
The cost of chemotherapy is just one of the expenses that come with a dog’s cancer treatment. If your pup receives a cancer diagnosis, you will also need to budget for other important costs, including:
- Pain medication
- Follow-up x-rays
- CT scans
- Monitoring in intensive care unit (if needed)
Your vet may also recommend other treatments like surgery and radiation therapy. Some dogs may respond well to immunotherapy, in which they’re given a vaccine designed to help their bodies fight certain types of canine cancer, like osteosarcoma or melanoma.
The use of immunotherapy in dogs is still an evolving therapy, but when paired with other treatments like chemotherapy and surgery, it may be a helpful way to support your dog. Talk to your vet about the best treatment plan for your pup.
Can pet insurance cover the costs of chemotherapy?
In many cases, yes!
Chemotherapy for dogs can be prohibitively expensive, but if your best friend is covered with pet insurance, that coverage can help to take the bite out of expensive vet bills.
For example, if your dog is diagnosed with cancer and they have a Lemonade Pet policy, your dog’s chemotherapy treatments will likely be covered (keeping in mind things like your deductible and co-insurance).
Your pet insurance policy can also help to pay for diagnostics. If you notice a suspicious lump, your policy can help to cover tests like cytology, needle aspiration, or biopsy.
But remember, if you notice a lump or bump, or if tests show abnormalities before you sign your dog up for pet insurance (or during their waiting period for illnesses, which varies by state), your dog’s cancer would be considered a pre-existing condition, and chemotherapy and other treatments wouldn’t be covered. That’s why it’s so important to sign your dog up for pet insurance before you notice anything wrong—if you wait, it may be too late to get coverage for cancer and chemotherapy treatments.
Remember, too, that experimental and homeopathic treatments for cancer or other illnesses would not be covered under a Lemonade Pet policy.
Helping your dog recover from cancer treatment
Just as people experience some unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy, your dog may also experience some side effects. The most common side effects for dogs are an upset stomach. As a result, your dog might have a reduced appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration.
If your dog experiences these symptoms, tell your vet right away. Your vet will probably prescribe some anti-nausea meds or changes to their diet, and will ask you to monitor and continue to report on your dog’s symptoms.
Often, these symptoms are mild and will improve with time, but some dogs may need additional support and even hospitalization. Be sure to also tell your vet about any medications or herbal remedies that you’re giving your dog, since these can potentially interact with your dog’s chemotherapy.
Before we go…
Cancer can be a heartbreaking diagnosis, but there are ways to help your dog maintain their quality of life in the face of cancer.
Keep in mind, pet insurance for your dog can help you afford treatments like chemotherapy and radiation if your dog ultimately needs them, so finances are one less thing that you have to worry about during this stressful time.
If your dog is diagnosed with cancer, don’t be afraid to get a second and third opinion. It’s important that you understand all of the pros and cons of each treatment option so you can ultimately decide which treatment is right for you, your financial situation, and your best friend.
A few quick words, because we <3 our lawyers: This post is general in nature, and any statement in it doesn’t alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. You’re encouraged to discuss your specific circumstances with your own professional advisors. The purpose of this post is merely to provide you with info and insights you can use to make such discussions more productive! Naturally, all comments by, or references to, third parties represent their own views, and Lemonade assumes no responsibility for them. Coverage may not be available in all states.