When Bonnie Beckett’s dog Malibu got sick, it was unfortunately not Bonnie’s first experience with pet cancer. Just a few years earlier, her English sheepdog, Oliver, had been treated for leukemia. During the two additional years after diagnosis that Bonnie had with Oliver, she developed a very special relationship with the staff and the veterinary specialist who treated him. So when Malibu needed follow up care for kidney cancer, there was no question that Bonnie would take her to Sue Downing, DVM, DACVIM, oncology specialist at VCA Animal Specialty and Emergency Center (ASEC) in West Los Angeles.

Malibu is a stout, happy, 12 year-old Chihuahua who had already received a second chance at life when Bonnie’s sister found her through a rescue group. Upon meeting her, Bonnie was shocked to find out that anyone had considered Malibu “unadoptable.” At eight and a half, Malibu was being passed over for adoption because she was so close to her senior years. Her age didn’t matter to Bonnie, who fell in love with her immediately. And she’s not the only one.

“She can only be described as unbelievably fetching,” remarks Dr. Downing. “She has this wonderful roundness to her appearance and a love for people that just draws you in.”

When Bonnie noticed that Malibu’s typically happy and outgoing demeanor changed, she knew immediately something was wrong. A visit to her primary veterinarian confirmed Bonnie’s fears – Malibu had a cancerous mass on her kidney.

After having her kidney removed, Malibu would need regular, expert monitoring. Bonnie knew she wanted to take Malibu to the same place where her late dog Oliver received the quality, and compassionate care that was needed: VCA ASEC.

VCA ASEC is a veterinary specialty hospital and 24-hour emergency center. With board-certified specialists in critical care, cardiology, internal medicine, oncology and radiology, as well as surgery, the highly-trained veterinarians make sure pets get the highest quality care.

“I was so terrified when I first brought Oliver to Dr. Downing,” remembers Bonnie. “She immediately put me at ease; she explained everything very clearly, and always listened carefully to me. Not only is she smart, she’s an incredibly kind person.”

Bonnie is equally pleased with VCA ASEC staff. 

“I’m always so impressed by how organized they are,” she says. “Everything always runs smoothly. They are a great example for other hospitals.”

Malibu has been seeing Dr. Downing every few months since May 2019 for exams and ultrasounds to make sure there aren’t any signs of recurrence of her cancer. So far, she’s doing extremely well. 

“It’s my goal to prolong the lives of pets diagnosed with cancer and make sure they can enjoy the rest of their lives,” says Dr. Downing. “With careful monitoring, we can make sure that any recurrences of cancer are detected and addressed quickly.”

February is National Cancer Prevention Awareness Month. Your VCA veterinarian is your partner in cancer prevention for your pets. We’re committed to helping you keep your pets healthy through routine care and early detection.

New therapies make pet cancers very treatable, with the goal of improving and extending quality of life. Pets tend to tolerate cancer treatment better than humans, with few or no side effects.

We invite you to visit the website of your closest specialty hospital. You can read about the specialists and teams of people who are always there for you and your pet should the need arise. You will find doctor and team member bios, helpful descriptions of the specialty departments at each hospital and a wealth of information related to the conditions and diseases our specialists treat.

““It’s my goal to prolong the lives of pets diagnosed with cancer and make sure they can enjoy the rest of their lives,” says Dr. Downing.”