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Help For Your Pet During Your Cancer Journey: What A Great Idea!

A cancer diagnosis and treatment is difficult enough. Having a pet that needs attention during one’s journey shouldn’t add to the burden.

That’s the philosophy behind a program offered by CancerCare, a national charity focused on the emotional, social, and financial well-being of those with cancer and those who love them.

The program is called the Pet Assistance and Wellness Program, or PAW for short. When I first heard about it, I realized how important such a program can be for those with cancer who love their pets, particularly their cats and dogs, and how the financial, medical, and social issues facing a pet parent can translate into difficulties caring for their companion animals.

From my perspective, PAW is a natural “winner” and one that deserves our attention and our support.

We often hear about the financial hardships that come along with a cancer diagnosis and treatment, especially when the treatment is extensive and costly as is frequently the case with some of the newer targeted and immune therapies. Cancer takes a toll on people, especially when the disease progresses and we lose our ability to function normally.

Those problems translate to our pets: financial burdens for a pet parent may mean that feeding a pet becomes more difficult because of the cost; hospitalization for cancer care can mean that a pet needs a safe temporary home, sometimes on short notice; physical limitations may mean that a dog can’t go for its customary walk.

Pets are so giving of their love and companionship and mean so much more to us during our times of need. They are unconditional in their love, and when we are ill they frequently are a major source of support and stability during difficult times. But when our illness moves from a minor to a major issue, we want to love and support our companions notwithstanding our own limitations at the moment.

That’s what PAW is about: helping those who need help caring for their companions.

Currently focused on cats and dogs, Paw provides financial assistance, educational resources, and case management along with psychosocial services.  Program support comes in several forms, including pet food, help with veterinarian expenses, caregiving such as pet walking/sitting, and help with preventive medications along with boarding fees for the pet dogs and cats of those cancer patients who find themselves in financial hardship.

There are other aspects of the program that are also important for many cancer patients and caregivers, such as educational resources to help folks understand how a pet-parent’s cancer treatment may affect the pet (the good news: not often), or how a pet may affect a patient’s cancer journey (again, fortunately not often however there are some circumstances such as during transplant and significant immunosuppression when pet contact should be limited).

All of these resources are available through the CancerCare website at

On a personal note, I am honored to be a member of the CancerCare Board of Trustees. When I first heard about this program, it didn’t take me more than a moment to realize that this was a special idea. Having devoted part of my professional life to better understanding the relationship between human and companion dog cancer, I already had a special place in my heart for doggies with cancer. It was easy to appreciate that PAW is designed for a largely unmet need.

So many folks are incredibly committed to their doggies and cats. Frequently older cancer patients—the age group most impacted by cancer–live alone without a ready support network to care for their pets. From my view, it is truly special that CancerCare is there to help when help is needed to lessen a burden which we don’t talk about often but from our personal experiences often know is a genuinely serious problem.

So thanks to CancerCare for shepherding (pardon the pun) this program and helping it grow. And for those who need help it is only a phone call or internet-click away.

Equally important: for those who care, your support for this program would be most welcome. What a great way to share our concern for those who need help supporting their furry companions while dealing with cancer and all that it implies.

For those interested in making a donation: