What Pet Insurance Covers Cancer Treatment?

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During a visit to the vet, no pet parent wants to hear the dreaded “C” word—cancer. About one in four dogs will develop a tumor, which may be benign or malignant, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Half of dogs over age 10 will develop cancer. One in five cats will develop cancer in their lifetime, according to the Colorado State University (CSU) Flint Animal Center.

The average cost of cancer treatment is $4,100 for dogs and $3,800 for cats, according to claims data from Pets Best from 2017 to 2021. Pet insurance can be a good way to help offset medical expenses if your pet develops cancer.

Pet Insurance Plans That Cover Cancer

Accident and illness pet insurance plans typically cover cancer, including diagnosis and treatment. Here are some pet insurance companies that cover cancer-related medical expenses.

Related: What does pet insurance cover?

Pet Insurance Plans That Do Not Cover Cancer

You won’t have coverage for cancer-related expenses if:

  • You purchased an accident-only plan. As the name implies, only accidents are covered under this type of plan. Illnesses, such as cancer, are not covered in an accident-only plan.
  • Your pet’s cancer is a pre-existing condition. Pet insurance plans commonly exclude pre-existing conditions, meaning an illness (such as cancer) that started prior to your coverage beginning, including the waiting period.

Related: Pet insurance plans for pre-existing conditions

Top Cancer Warning Signs

Just like humans, different types of cancers can affect your pet. That’s why it’s important to take your pet to your veterinarian for regular wellness exams. But it’s equally important for you, as a pet parent, to be on the lookout for any cancer warning signs and report them to your vet.

Here are some common cancer warning signs to be aware of:

  • Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
  • Bleeding or discharge, including diarrhea and vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing, defecating or urinating
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
  • Loss of appetite
  • Offensive odor from your pet’s ears, mouth or any other part of their body
  • Persistent lameness, such as limping or other evidence of pain
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Weight loss

Types of Pet Cancers

Here are some common forms of cancer and how they impact your pet.

Bladder cancer

This type of cancer can occur in any part of your pet’s urinary system. It is typically detected by diagnostics such as biopsies, blood work and imaging to determine the best course of treatment. Treatments include chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) cancer

HSA is a fast-spreading, malignant tumor related to blood cells and can be found anywhere in your pet’s body. The most common places HSA appear is in the spleen, heart and liver. HSA happens less commonly in the skin.

HSA is more common in dogs than in cats. Due to its aggressive nature, HSA is usually in advanced stages before it is diagnosed.


This type of cancer is found in your pet’s white blood cells or lymphoid tissue. Growths may appear in locations in your pet’s body such as bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract (including the intestines, liver and stomach) and the lymph nodes.

Cats with feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency (FIV) are at a higher risk of developing lymphoma. Keeping your cats indoors can help reduce their chances of catching viruses from other cats.

Lymphoma in dogs is often treated with chemotherapy, and 95% of dogs treated go into remission when the “most effective treatment protocols are used,” according to the CSU Flint Animal Cancer Center. About 70% of cats with lymphoma treated with chemotherapy experience remission.

Mammary cancer

Dogs and cats are both prone to mammary (breast) cancer. Most tumors are malignant and can potentially spread to the rest of your pet’s body. Surgical removal of breast growth is one of the most effective treatments as long as cancer has not spread. Early detection and removal when the mass is small could potentially cure your pet.

Unspayed female dogs and cats are more likely to develop mammary cancer. One of the best prevention tools is to have your pet spayed.

Mast cell tumor (MCT)

MCTs are the most common skin tumors found in dogs. Low- or intermediate-grade tumors are unlikely to spread and surgical removal may be the only treatment necessary. High-grade tumors are more likely to spread, and additional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation may be considered.


Melanomas are tumors arising from pigment-producing cells. In dogs, they are commonly found on the skin, in the mouth and on the toenails. The majority of skin melanomas on dogs are benign, but the majority of oral and toenail melanomas are malignant and can spread throughout the body.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a common melanoma tumor in a feline’s oral cavity. Because cats have such small mouths, surgery may require the removal of the upper and lower jaw so cancer doesn’t continue to spread.

Diagnosis of a melanoma usually requires a biopsy. Surgery is typically the first treatment.In cases where surgery is not possible, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation therapy may be an option.


About 85% of canine bone tumors are osteosarcomas, according to the CSU Flint Animal Cancer Center. It commonly affects the limbs of large and giant breed dogs but can also occur in other parts of the skeleton, such as the pelvis, ribs, skull and vertebrae. The cancer will spread to the lungs in about 80% of dogs with osteosarcomas.

Treatment depends on several factors, such as the tumor type, location and extent of the disease. Diagnostic tests such as biopsies, blood tests and x-rays are often used to determine the appropriate treatment.

Breeds Prone to Cancer

Some pet breeds are more susceptible to certain cancers than others. For example, Oriental and Siamese cat breeds are more susceptible to Lymphoma.

Here are some dog breeds that are more prone to mast cell tumors:

  • Beagles
  • Boxers
  • Boston Terriers
  • Bull Terriers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • English bulldogs
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labradors
  • Pugs
  • Schnauzers
  • Staffordshires
  • Shar Peis
  • Rhosesians
  • Ridgebackss
  • Weimaraners

Dog breeds that are prone to Osteosarcoma:

  • Borzos
  • Deerhounds
  • Dobermans
  • German Shepherds
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Great Danes
  • Greyhounds
  • Irish Setter s
  • Irish wolfhounds
  • Rottweilers
  • Saint Bernards
  • Scottish Deerhounds
  • Borzois
  • Greyhounds

Dog breeds that are prone to Lymphoma:

  • Airedale Terriers
  • Basset Hounds
  • Boxers
  • Bulldogs
  • Bullmastiffs
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Saint Bernards
  • Scottish Terriers

Dog breeds that are prone to Hemangiosarcoma

  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Boxers
  • Flat Coated Retrievers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • German Shepherds
  • Portuguese Water Dogs
  • Skye Terriers

Pet Cancer Treatments

If your pet is diagnosed with cancer, here are some types of treatment your veterinarian might suggest.

Keep in mind, most pet insurance plans do not cover treatment that is considered experimental, investigational or not within the standard of care accepted by your state’s veterinary medical board. It’s a good idea to speak with your insurance agent before you begin treatment to make sure you’re covered.


Surgery or radiation may not eliminate the disease if cancer has spread throughout your pet’s body. Chemotherapy can help slow the spread of cancer and kill the disease. Chemotherapy can also be used before surgery to reduce the size of a tumor or after surgery to kill small cancer cells that the surgeon was unable to remove.

Pets can receive chemotherapy either through an IV or oral medications.

Clinical trials

Veterinarians use clinical trials to identify new treatments and discover a deeper understanding of certain diseases in pets. If your pet isn’t responding to the treatment recommendations, participating in a clinical trial may give them access to advanced treatments that aren’t readily available. Clinical trials can consist of testing medications, radiation therapy protocols, surgeries or other treatments like immunotherapy.

If your vet is not conducting clinical trials, you can visit the Animal Health Studies Database to search for relevant clinical trials.


Radiation therapy kills cancer cells by damaging the DNA. Teletherapy is the most common form of radiation treatment, which is an external beam that targets the tumor and surrounding areas. A small dose of radiation may be delivered to your pet every day over a course of three to four weeks.


One of the most common treatments for cancer is surgery, which aims to remove the tumor. Before a vet recommends surgery, they usually take a tumor biopsy to diagnose the mass as well as other diagnostics such as a CT scan, MRI and ultrasound.

Some pets may require other treatments, such as chemotherapy, in addition to surgery.

Pet Cancer Treatment Costs

The average cost for cancer treatment for dogs is $4,100 and $3,800 for cats, according to claims data from 2017 to 2021 provided by Pets Best.

A good way to offset these costs is with pet insurance. The average cost for $5,000 of annual coverage for a dog is $35 a month and $28 for a cat, according to a Forbes Advisor analysis of pet insurance costs. It’s a good idea to compare pet insurance quotes from several different insurers to find a good plan at a reasonable price.

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