Pain Management for Pets with Cancer

Last Modified: September 17, 2012

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My dog was just diagnosed with primary bone cancer (yesterday in fact). She is already 3 legged so amputation is not an option and the vet said that the best we could is to just keep her comfortable until we feel it is time to put her out of her pain. Could you address pain management options and any suggestions as to how/ when to make this very difficult decision?

Lili Duda, VMD, MBE, DACVR Veterinary Radiation Oncologist- University of Pennsylvania, responds:


There are a variety of options to help manage pain associated with bone tumors. We generally start with a combination of an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) and tramadol (a narcotic-like pain medication). We may also add in adjunctive medications such as amantadine and gabapentin which are not adequate by themselves but work well with the above medications. Narcotics can be used if tramadol is not effective, but they can have side-effects that affect a pet's quality of life such as sleepiness or nausea. The safety of any of these drugs must be discussed with your veterinarian, as every pet's medical status is different. Radiation therapy can be very effective in providing relief from bone cancer pain in many pets. Some owners have reported benefit from acupuncture treatments as well.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire transcript from When a Beloved Pet has Cancer.

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