Touch someone’s life with kindnessOur pets share so many aspects of our lives and caring for them is a deeply satisfying experience. Indeed, many of us think of our pets as full fledged family members which is why hearing that a friend’s pet has cancer can be such a shock.

It can be difficult to know what to do or say when you find out that a friend’s pet has cancer.   The fact remains that your friend needs all the support he or she can get as his or her pet undergoes treatment. Here are some ways you can help:

What To Say (And Not To Say) When A Friend’s Pet Has Cancer

The news that a friend’s pet has cancer can evoke a variety of emotions including worry about the pet, concern for your friend and even fear that the same thing may happen to your pet. While there’s no guidebook when it comes to knowing the right things to say to a friend whose pet is ill, here are some helpful “dos and don’ts” to keep in mind:


  • Acknowledge the situation – Your loved one will benefit from knowing that he or she is not alone and that you appreciate what he or she is going through.
  • Listen – Sometimes the best way to help is simply listening.
  • Express empathy – You can’t fix your friend’s pet’s cancer but you can say, “I’m sorry” and offer a shoulder to cry on.
  • Do your research – Show your support by taking a few moments to research the pet’s particular condition and treatment protocol and by looking up pet cancer support groups in your area to refer your friend to if necessary.


  • Pretend nothing is wrong – Ask how your friend’s pet is feeling and if your friend is up to talking about his or her pet’s illness or treatment.
  • Offer your opinion – Without being asked, that is.
  • Ask about finances – Cancer treatment can be costly but you can assume your friend has already discussed the financial responsibilities associated with the treatment protocol with his or her veterinarian and family.
  • Suggest getting another pet – Your friend’s relationship with his or her beloved companion cannot be replaced. If and when your friend does get a new pet, offer non-judgmental congratulations and don’t compare the new pet to the old one.

How You Can Help

Offers of help and support flood in when a human loved one is ill but this isn’t always the case when a pet is sick. However, there may be a lot of needs that are unmet. Rather than saying, “let me know if you need anything,” offer tangible support to your loved one, such as:

  • Keeping your friend company in the veterinary office waiting room
  • Picking up the pet’s prescription so your friend can stay at home with their dear four-legged friend
  • Watching the children while your friend takes his or her pet to an appointment
  • Helping to care for other pets
  • Offer to check on the pet while your friend is at work or away from the home

Cost can be a touchy subject, but it’s also something that you can help with.  If you’d rather not offer funds directly to your friend, but you’d still like to contribute to the pet’s veterinary care, consider a donation in that pet’s name.  For example, you can ask us how a donation to our Veterinary Comparative Oncology Research Foundation can go toward an individual patient’s treatment costs.

Pet cancer is a delicate topic and it can be difficult to know what to say to a friend or relative who is experiencing this situation. Please don’t hesitate to contact the staff at Veterinary Oncology Services And Research Center for assistance.