Delivering Difficult News: How to Talk to Pet Parents About Canine Cancer

As veterinarians, our work involves a wide range of emotions. We may experience the joy of treating a sick pet and seeing them recover, but we may also have to deliver the devastating news of a cancer diagnosis. It can be difficult to break such news to pet  parents who have a strong emotional bond with their dogs. However, as veterinary healthcare providers, it is our responsibility to help our clients through these tough times.

In recognition of Pet Cancer Awareness Month, we want to emphasize the importance of developing a gentle bedside manner when speaking to clients about a cancer diagnosis. It is essential to approach these conversations with empathy, understanding, and compassion. Remember, your clients may be feeling overwhelmed, scared, and anxious. Therefore, it is crucial to be patient and give them the time and space they need to process the information.

It is also essential to listen to your client's concerns and answer any questions they may have. Some pet parents may want to know more about the disease and its causes, while others may want to discuss the emotional and financial implications of treatment. Whatever their concerns may be, it is crucial to address them honestly and sensitively.

Below are some helpful tips to navigate delivering a cancer diagnosis. 


A busy and noisy clinic room may not be the right place to deliver such news. Find a quiet, private space where the owner and pet can be comfortable. It is important to provide enough time for the owner to process the information and grieve if needed. Being available for follow up questions is also key.


Technical jargon can be confusing and overwhelming to a client, especially after hearing bad news about their beloved pet. Chances are, they’re already stressed from having to bring their dog to the vet to begin with. Keep the language simple and straightforward. Explain the diagnosis, treatment options, and possible prognosis in uncomplicated terms. It can take a bit of time for the information to register before the family is ready to hear about next steps, so don’t rush this process.


It is essential to be truthful and transparent to pet parents about their dog's condition. Although this may be tough, remember that your clients are looking to you for honesty and expertise. Share all the information related to the condition, and discuss their options thoroughly so they can make informed decisions about what to do next. 


Pet parents are not usually prepared for this type of news. Therefore, they’re likely to have questions (immediately or down the line), and you must provide what advice you can. Give them access to further information on the diagnosis and treatments, as well as support groups or organizations that can help them through the process. 


Finally, show compassion and empathy towards the family and pet. Acknowledge what a beloved member of the family the pet is and understand that this is a difficult time for everyone. Be there to listen and offer reassurance, but also respect their distress and give them the space they need. 

Delivering the news of a cancer diagnosis is not easy, but how we respond and show compassion to clients going through this tough time can make a huge difference. By taking the time to choose the right environment, using clear language, being honest, and providing resources and guidance, we'll support pet parents during one of their most challenging moments. Remember always to show compassion and empathy - the little things really make the biggest difference.

FidoCure® is leading the way in canine cancer research and treatment. With the use of genomic testing and targeted therapy, thousands of pet parents have found hope in their dog's cancer diagnosis. Consider FidoCure's medical affairs team an extension of yours-- available to help you manage the complex process of cancer treatment and support you in your approach. Learn how to diversify your practice with FidoCure and fight against this devastating disease. Together, we can make a difference.