The mission of the Oncology Consultation Service is to provide cutting-edge treatments for your pet with cancer, while focusing on quality-of-life. Advances in veterinary cancer treatments are made every day and many types of cancers are very treatable. In fact, dogs and cats with cancer are living months or even years longer than they would have with the same types of cancers just a few years ago. Many cancers in animals, while still very serious, can largely be managed as “chronic conditions” with ongoing surveillance and/or treatment, similar to the way veterinarians treat heart disease, kidney disease, or diabetes.

Who will you see at VCA Colonial Animal Hospital if your pet is referred for an Oncology Consultation?
Dr. Ken Rassnick is a board-certified specialist in Oncology and his Oncology Service offers individualized patient care for all pets with cancer. Dr. Rassnick is supported by a talented team of highly trained licensed veterinary technicians specializing in oncology. The oncology technicians provide an exceptional level of patient care and are equally committed to supporting the social and emotional needs of you and your family.

What to expect if your pet is referred to see Dr. Rassnick:
Dr. Rassnick’s Oncology Service offers pet-owners experience, expertise, and compassionate individualized care for your pet with cancer. The oncology consultation will provide you with information and peace of mind to make the best possible choices for you and your pet.

Initial oncology consultations usually take one hour. During that time your pet’s complete cancer and medical history are reviewed and a comprehensive physical examination is done. You will meet with Dr. Rassnick during the consultation and will discuss his recommendations for further diagnostics and/or treatments. With the exception of diabetic pets, no food should be given after 6 pm the evening before your pet’s initial oncology appointment, as some diagnostic tests are best performed and interpreted when pets are fasted. You should continue to allow free access to water. If you have any questions about feeding or administering your pet’s current medications prior to your consultation with Dr. Rassnick, do not hesitate calling the hospital.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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.

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

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




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.