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Combating cancer in dogs and cats on every veterinary front.

Cancer can be one of the most complex and difficult diseases to diagnose and treat, not to mention emotionally draining on every level for both you and your pet. Our oncology department leads the attack against your pet’s cancer, coming at it from all sides with traditional therapies, surgery, radiation, immunotherapy and chemotherapy to provide the best possible prognosis. Quality of life is critical to you, your pet, and to us, which is why we consider both pain management as well as psychological and social needs when treating your pet’s cancer.

A multi-pronged attack on cancer.

Cancer treatment at Animal Specialty Group is the definition of the collaborative approach. Our oncology department combines their knowledge, skill and experience with that of the surgery, radiology and alternative medicine specialists to create a comprehensive approach to treat your pet, and defeat the cancer.

Depending on the location, type and stage of your pet’s cancer, treatment will involve some combination of oral chemotherapy, intravenous chemotherapy administered in our hospital, radiation therapy, surgical removal or reduction of the tumor, acupuncture, immunotherapy, food therapy, and oral pain medication. Early, aggressive therapy is vital. Some of the procedures and diagnostic tests we use are listed on the right.

Cancer comes in various forms.

While people and pets live for years, most of the cells that make up our bodies generally have lifetimes measured in days, weeks, or months. Growth occurs through division, or splitting, of cells from one cell into two. This division occurs at different rates, depending on the tissue, the age of the individual, and the need at hand. Cell division happens rapidly, but in a controlled way, in growing children or pets, or when a wound is healing.

When the natural order is upset, though, and cell division occurs in an uncontrolled way, this is termed “cancer” or “neoplasia” (literally ‘new growth’). In some cases this takes the form of a mass, such as an enlarged lymph node, or a visible skin lesion – these are “tumors.” There are some forms of cancer that do not form masses, however, but spread themselves throughout the body. These types of cancer are most commonly associated with blood cells, such as leukemia or lymphoma, and may require bone marrow testing, in addition to other tests, to diagnose.

Benign vs. malignant: Benign tumors are masses that grow slowly, and do not have a tendency to spread to other parts of the body. These are generally named with the Latin term for the tissue, and end with “oma,” which means mass. Lipomas, for example, are benign masses of fat cells. These types of “benign” tumors may only become important if they impact normal function. “Benign” does not necessarily mean harmless, though – even a benign tumor inside the skull, growing very slowly, can put dangerous pressure on the brain.

Other tumors do tend to spread through the body. As these cancers grow, small clumps of abnormal cells will break from the main tumor, and spread to other parts of the body. In the case of “sarcomas,” this spread is through the blood vessels. Because capillaries have the smallest diameter, these “clumps” tend to end up here – there are very large numbers of capillaries in the liver, spleen, kidney, lungs, and brain, and these areas are the most common for new tumor growth.

“Carcinomas” follow a similar path, but through the lymphatic system, and spread first to lymph nodes. Regardless of the route, this process is referred to as “metastasis,” and cancers that display this behavior are “malignant.” There are other differences between sarcomas and carcinomas, but the important thing to know is that malignant cancer, whether sarcoma (such as lymphosarcoma) or carcinoma (such as squamous cell carcinoma) is serious, and early treatment, before metastasis, is important.

A note on cancer naming: If benign cancers end with “oma,” and malignant cancers end with “carcinoma or sarcoma,” then lymphoma and melanoma should be benign. Unfortunately, common usage has altered some of the names, and this can be confusing. When there is no benign form of a tumor, such as lymphosarcoma or melanosarcoma, physicians and veterinarians tend to drop the “sarc” or “carcin” because it makes the word easier to say. Thus, “Hodgkin’s lymphoma” is a malignant cancer, not benign as the name would indicate.

Common types of cancer.

Skin cancer: Because skin is the largest organ in the body, it should come as no surprise that the skin is an area where cancer is commonly found. There are several types of “skin cancer,” though, and they require different treatment. Mast cell tumors, melanosarcoma (often called “malignant melanoma,” or just “melanoma”), and squamous cell carcinoma are common forms. There is even a cancer that starts in blood vessels, hemangiosarcoma (hem=blood, angio=vessel), that spreads to skin.

Lymphatic cancer: Cancer of the lymph nodes and, less frequently, of the circulating blood, occurs relatively commonly in dogs, and is more common in some breeds than in others. Some cancers, as noted above, also spread to lymph nodes.

Bone cancer: Osteosarcoma, a malignant bony tumor that occurs most often in large breeds, accounts for more than 80% of bony tumors. While osteosarcoma responds to chemotherapy, it also tends to spread or metastasize at an early stage, so rapid diagnosis and combined therapy with chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are critical to the outcome. While “amputation before metastasis” is the core of traditional therapy, ASG, along with many surgery centers around the world, focuses on “limb-sparing” procedures where appropriate. Limb-sparing procedures remove the diseased bone, and replace it with a bone graft. These procedures are especially valuable in patients that are not good candidates for amputation.

The future looks bright.

Twenty short years ago, there were not many options when diagnosed with cancer, for people and pets alike. But cancer diagnosis, treatment and surgery continue to make huge improvements, and conditions that were not treatable twenty years ago can potentially be sent into remission today. And the treatment regimens of chemo, radiation, and surgery are much kinder than they were then, too (and getting better all the time).

No one wants to have themselves, family or pets diagnosed with cancer. It is both physically and emotionally draining, and painful for the patient, family, and doctors. But it is no longer hopeless. We will be right there beside you, guiding you, helping you make good treatment decisions, and helping your pet through this challenging time.

Oncology Services:


  • Ultrasound + Endoscopically Guided Biopsies
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgical Oncology, including Limb Sparing Procedures
  • Molecular Targeted Therapies
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Immunotherapy

Diagnostic Tests

  • Blood chemistry
  • Complete blood counts
  • Blood coagulation
  • Fine needle aspirates
  • Tru-Cut biopsies
  • Jamshidi bone biopies
  • Ultrasound
  • Bone marrow aspirates
  • Digital radiography
  • CT scans
  • MRI

Make A Referral:

Click here to download our convenient referral form and fax it back to us at (818) 507-9418. Please include blood work results, radiographs, vaccine history, and relevant portions of the medical record.

  • Radiographs sent with the owner will be returned promptly.
  • Have owners call directly for the next available appointment.
  • If a case needs to be seen urgently, please call and speak with a member of our Oncology Team.
How Can I Keep My Pet From Getting Cancer?

Just as in people, there is no proven way to keep your pet from getting cancer. You can, however, take steps to minimize the risks. Avoid any known predisposing causes, such as not spaying or neutering pets, or leaving pets exposed to sunlight. Also make sure your pet has regularly scheduled checkups and follow your veterinarian's advice regarding any necessary screening tests.

What Additional Training Does A Veterinary Oncologist Have?

Any veterinarian who wants to specialize in oncology must first be certified as an internal medicine specialist. Veterinarians who want to become board certified in internal medicine must seek additional, intensive training to become a specialist and earn this prestigious credentialing. Specialty status is granted by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM). A veterinarian who has received this specialty status will list the initials, 'DACVIM,' after his or her DVM degree. Or, the veterinarian may indicate that he or she is a 'Diplomate' of the ACVIM. The word 'Diplomate' typically means the specialist has achieved the following:  

Obtained a traditional 8 year veterinary degree (four years of college plus four years of veterinary school).

Completed an additional three to six years of advanced training, including a residency at a veterinary teaching hospital where the veterinarian will have trained with some of the best experts in the field and obtained hands on experience.

Completed the credentialing application process established by the ACVIM

Passed a rigorous general examination.

Once a veterinarian is board certified in internal medicine, he or she may seek additional specialty status in veterinary oncology. Internal medicine specialists must obtain additional training in this area and sit for a second, even more intensive examination. These doctors will list their credentials after their boarded status, for example, as 'DAVCIM (Oncology).'

When your pet needs the care of a veterinary internal medicine specialist/veterinary oncologist, years of intensive training and additional education will be focused on helping him or her to recover from the disease and/or enjoy the highest quality of life possible.

What Are Cancer Treatment Methods?

The goal of cancer therapy is to destroy abnormal cancer cells while sparing normal cells. An important difference in human vs. animal oncology is that the goal with humans, due to our extended life spans, is to cure the disease. In animals, the goal is more to extend the length of life while still maintaining its quality. In many cases, a veterinary oncologist will combine some or all of the treatment options outlined below in order to provide the very best outcome for your pet.


Radiation Treatment



Will Chemotherapy Make My Pet Sick?

Your veterinary oncologist will give you specific instructions regarding your pet's chemotherapy, but in general, you should be aware that pets typically handle chemotherapy regimens far better than people do. First, as cancer treatment for both humans and small animals has become more sophisticated, the side effects created by chemotherapy regimens have become less severe. Second, chemotherapy administration in animals is less aggressive than it is in humans, so animals typically do not become as sick from the side effects as do people.

Finally, veterinary oncologists have many options at their disposal to help keep your pet comfortable during treatment for his or her disease. From pain management options to special nutritional recommendations to medications that can help lessen the nausea associated with chemotherapy, be assured that veterinary oncologists can keep most pets surprisingly comfortable during treatment. In fact, one of the biggest hurdles to treating pets with cancer is that many owners imagine their pet's treatment will be more difficult than it really is.

Our Oncology Team

Our Oncology Services

Bone Marrow Aspirate
Bone Marrow Transplant
Cancer Staging
Contrast Enhanced Radiation Therapy CERT
Metronomic Therapy
Palliative Treatment of Cancer Pain
Radiation Therapy

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