Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs and cats. Advances in our understanding of cancer biology have helped pets live longer, with an excellent, dignified quality of life. Our goal is to give you all the information you need to make the right decision for you and your pet. We may offer additional diagnostics such as aspirates, biopsies or staging to refine a treatment plan that may include chemotherapy, surgery or radiotherapy; all with the goal if improving your pet's quality of life. At Veterinary Specialty Center, you'll have the peace of mind knowing you will see the same board certified oncologist at every visit.
We perform advanced diagnostic procedures; including ultrasound and biopsy procedures; or interpret tests already performed by your veterinarian to identify the type, location, and behavior of a tumor. After collecting this information and consulting with your veterinarian, our cancer specialist will describe the behavior and stage of the cancer, as well as the likely outcomes and treatment options to the pet owner. These options are tailored to the animal's particular cancer, prognosis and lifestyle and will be consistent with the owner's goals for the pet. Cancer treatments that may be recommended can include medical treatments (vaccines, chemotherapy, anti-vascular drugs), surgery and/or radiotherapy.
Some types of cancer are very responsive to chemotherapy. The approach for using chemotherapy in dogs and cats is very different from that in humans; our lower doses of chemotherapy often result in quick improvement in quality of life during treatment, rather than the approach in human oncology of using much larger doses of chemotherapy resulting in severe side effects but higher cure rates. Many chemotherapy protocols can often be covered by pet insurance.
When owners are faced with cancer in their pets, veterinarians will recommend or offer a consultation with a veterinary oncologist. An Assessment of the pet's history and physical examination is then done by an oncologist and will sometimes recommend a staging and treatment regimen. This regimen can be performed locally with their own veterinarian or at a specialist center depending on the pet’s treatment plan.
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
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.
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.