Canine lymphoma is a diagnosis that most pet parents are lucky enough to never even consider. Unfortunately, you are one of the unlucky pet parents who have now been tasked with navigating the world knowing that your pet currently has, incurable cancer. The challenge of having a furry family member with lymphoma is a huge one, and there is a lot that comes along with the diagnosis that you may need to consider.
Lymphoma is very time sensitive in terms of starting treatment and finding the best treatment plan. A cancer diagnosis is not something that pet parents typically have a plan ready for so being able to make quick and efficient decisions is going to be the most useful tool you can have in that situation.
Ask questions. Your veterinary oncologist will give you a lot of information, you may not be able to fully grasp everything the first time through, cancer is a complicated topic. Asking questions will help you be more confident in your decision-making process and your ability to make decisions in a quick timeline for your pet who will benefit.
Consider everything that may affect your dog’s treatment: How much time can you dedicate to their treatment? How much money can you afford to spend on their treatment? Do you feel confident with this oncologist or is there another one that might work better for you and your pet?
Money is easily one of the biggest concerns that all pet parents have to navigate so we cover some of the basics of lymphoma treatment and its cost in this post.
The goal of lymphoma treatment is to get the patient, your dog, into remission. Remission is when there are no active signs of cancer in the body, and the cancerous cells are not impacting the health of the animal, although they are still present. Canine lymphoma research is still working towards finding a cure, but right now the best thing to do is work towards the removal or reduction of active cancer cells.
The most common way to treat lymphoma in dogs is to use a multi-agent chemotherapy protocol. Lymphoma is a tricky cancer to beat because it affects the immune system’s cells which are designed to adapt and protect the body from diverse threats. When these cells become cancerous, the cancer uses that natural defense response to fight off chemotherapy drugs. Therefore, the benefit of using multiple types of chemotherapy is that the drugs can attack the cancer cells from multiple angles without giving the cells a chance to adapt to the drugs.
The go-to multi-agent chemotherapy treatment is the CHOP protocol, which uses 4 different drugs: Cyclophosphamide, Doxorubicin Hydrochloride (sometimes called Hydroxydaunomycin), Vincristine sulfate (brand name Oncovin), and Prednisone. This treatment is considered the “Gold Standard” for treating canine lymphoma.
You can learn more about the CHOP protocol and other multi-agent treatments in our blog post on The Best Chemotherapy Treatment For Your Dog.
While chemotherapy is the most effective, that doesn’t mean that it is the only option for treatment. Some pet parents may opt for the more affordable treatment of Prednisone, a steroid drug that can be used to help boost the immune system in immunodeficient patients.
Prednisone is a commonly used treatment for several different ailments that a dog can have. Because of its many uses, it’s typically a lot more cost-effective for pet parents in terms of providing some treatment, even if it is not the best.
One of the biggest causes of concern for pet parents is the cost of the treatment. Especially when a majority of treatment protocols don’t provide a frame of reference for what expenses can be expected.
The lack of price reference stems from a lot of different factors. Many treatments are determined by the weight of the dog, the stage of their cancer (1-5), and the prices set by an, unfortunately, competitive market in an area. Because of all of these influences, outside of the vet that is giving your pet their treatment, the best breakdown that anyone can offer on pricing is simply a range of estimates.
And there is always more than one option for treatment. If your oncologist is on the higher side of the price range, talk about different options with them. And don’t be afraid to call around to see if that’s the price point for your area, there may be a vet that has less oncology experience but may charge less as a result. There’s always going to be a give and take for how much you pay for treatment and the status of the vet that you choose, so make sure you’re as comfortable as you can be on both fronts.
Based on everything that makes your pet’s case special, the cost of a chemotherapy treatment plan can range quite greatly. The amount of doses is the main factor for the overall cost, but keep in mind that there is never any reason for you to have to pay for the entire chemotherapy treatment plan at the beginning. Over time, the cost of treatment will add up, but as the treatments are given weekly, the costs (or invoices) are typically on a monthly, or dosage basis depending on how your oncologist normally operates and what you and they decide is the best option for your pet’s treatment.
The cost of chemotherapy drugs can range anywhere from $150 to $600 per dose. And depending on the treatment plan, the number of drugs included, the lymphoma stage, and your dog's weight, these can add up by the time your pet achieves remission.
The total cost of chemotherapy can be anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 according to several sources, typically averaging around $5,000 for lymphoma patients.1,2,4,5
However, there are always options that can help you lower the cost of your pet’s treatment if you know where to look for them. We have a resource on Financial Assistance organizations for dogs with lymphoma.
And there’s a chance that you could find an online pharmacy to work with your oncologist to get the most affordable chemotherapy drugs for your pet as well.
Some pet insurance companies may be able to help with the costs, but be sure to look closely at their policies, many don’t cover pre-existing conditions and if you received your diagnosis before signing up, there’s a high chance they will consider lymphoma a pre-existing condition. Take a look at our Pros and Cons of Pet Insurance post to find out what to look for.
Prednisone is a common drug used by vets for several different reasons. While it can help limit some of the effects that lymphoma has on your dog, the chances of getting to remission using prednisone alone are much lower than using prednisone in tandem with one or more chemotherapy drugs.
Due to its widespread use, however, prednisone is a very affordable treatment and typically comes in 10mg to 20mg tablets, though they can be prescribed in anything from 1-50mg. A 10mg tablet will cost anywhere from $0.15-$0.30, and 20mg anywhere from $0.17-$0.32.6 Depending on how your vet prescribes the medication, the average cost for a 2-week dose can be anywhere from $6-$20.8
There are also online pharmacies that can fill a prescription of prednisone, often for cheaper than your vet is charging, because the online pharmacies don’t have to jump through the same operational hoops that vets do.
ImpriMed is a service that provides an invaluable tool for your vet. Using state-of-the-art labs and precision medicine practices, we are able to find the most effective treatment for each individual patient we encounter.
Using artificial intelligence, we’re able to test different chemotherapy drugs and drug combinations at different doses to see which will be the most effective and have the best results. Then we share that information with your veterinary oncologist so they can design the best treatment plan for your dog. This takes out the guesswork and prevents the chance of having to try more than one treatment in the standard trial-and-error method.