What Is A Veterinary Oncologist?

A board certified veterinary oncologist is a veterinarian who has obtained additional training in the area of veterinary oncology. In addition to their four-year veterinary education, they spend one year in an internship and three years in a residency that is entirely focused on oncology. Board certification requires completion of an oncology residency, publication of a research project, and successfully passing the oncology specialty examination. With this advanced training, a veterinary oncologist has specialized knowledge in the diagnosis of cancer, the staging of tumors, the development of treatment plans, and the administration of chemotherapy.

When your pet is faced with cancer, a veterinary oncologist will typically work together with your pet's general practitioner to formulate the best treatment plan for your pet. A veterinary oncologist can help your pet by coordinating one or more of the following treatment options:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Radiation therapy

While your general practitioner veterinarian can diagnose and treat many health problems, certain diseases like cancer require the care of a doctor who has had specialized training in veterinary oncology.

Why Does My Pet Need A Veterinary Oncologist?

Just as in humans, a pet with cancer typically needs the help of an oncologist to help diagnose and treat the disease. Veterinary oncologists determine the most appropriate course of treatment and coordinate the treatment plan for pets with cancer. They also frequently serve as consultants to veterinarians in general practice to ensure that their patients receive the best treatment possible for their cancer.

You can be assured that a veterinarian who refers you and your pet to a veterinary oncologist is one who is caring and committed to ensuring that your pet receives the highest standard of medical care for his or her illness.

While in some cases, your veterinarian may be able to simply consult with the veterinary oncologist about your pet's care, in other cases it is necessary to refer you and your pet to the veterinary oncologist for more advanced diagnostics and treatment. Board-certified veterinary oncologists may also have access to specialized diagnostic or treatment tools that a general practitioner veterinarian may not have.

My Pet Has Cancer. Now What?

The frequency of cancer diagnosis in pets appears to be increasing, most likely because our pets are living longer due to improvements in health care. The most important point to realize about this disease, however, is that just as in people, many forms of cancer can be successfully treated, managed, and in some cases, cured. Early detection and specialized care have led to increased survival rates in many types of cancers that afflict pets.

From surgery to chemotherapy to radiation therapy, veterinary cancer specialists can offer your pet the very latest diagnostic and treatment options and the best chance of survival with a good quality of life. With optimal treatment, cancer in some cases simply becomes another manageable chronic disease.

If your pet is diagnosed with cancer, it is important not to become overwhelmed. Ask your veterinarian to write down the most important points for you to review later. Although the disease is serious, treatment decisions generally do not need to be made urgently. If your pet is suspected to have cancer or has been confirmed to have cancer, you will either want to have your general practice veterinarian seek consultation with a veterinary oncologist or be referred to one of these specialists for your pet's treatment.

Veterinary oncologists typically treat:

  • Lymphoma
  • Mast cell tumors
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Soft tissue sarcomas
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Mammary tumors
  • Endocrine tumors
  • Oral tumors
  • Lung tumors
  • Bladder tumors
  • Anal sac tumors

Will My Regular Veterinarian Still Be Involved?

Yes, your regular veterinarian will still oversee your pet's veterinary care and will work together with the veterinary oncologist and other members of your pet's veterinary health care team.

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