A three-year-old Labrador retriever is treated for bone cancer at the Ontario Veterinary College. (CP)

More people are choosing to prolong the life of their pets after a diagnosis of cancer, but that can lead to financial problems for some.

The desire of pet owners to prolong the lives of their animals means more vet students need training in the area of oncology, and Charlottetown's Atlantic Veterinary College recently brought in veterinary oncologist Valerie MacDonald to give a seminar for students and veterinarians on modern treatment techniques.

"We don't have any oncologists here in Atlantic Canada," said AVC professor Pierre Amsellem.

"Many cancers can actually be cured or treated, maintaining a good quality of life for the animals, I mean, we cure over 50 per cent of animal cancer."

MacDonald said pet owners are well informed about the options, and veterinarians need to understand how difficult the decisions they face are.

"Pets are definitely part of the family now," she said.

"Dogs with lymphoma that are treated just with chemotherapy can be anywhere between three and five thousand dollars over a six-month period. We certainly do not judge whether they decide to go for treatment, because we certainly understand that sometimes it isn't financially viable at all to do so."

But the desire to keep an animal alive can sometimes lead people to spend money they don't have.

"I think a lot of people end up spending more than they sometimes should, therefore they are putting themselves in financial difficulties to treat their pets," said Amsellem.

While there is a wide range of treatment options available — including surgery, advanced imaging, and chemotherapy — the costs of those treatments can add up quickly, he said.