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Oncology FAQ

The oncologist will review information provided by your family veterinarian, if received in advance. During your appointment, a complete physical will be performed to assess your pet’s condition. Further diagnostics or treatment will be recommended based on your pet’s overall health and history. A detailed estimate of the potential treatment plan(s) will be reviewed with you and your consent received prior to beginning any diagnostics or treatments.

We ask that you do not feed your pet the day of his/her appointment in preparation for recommended diagnostics or procedures. Please remove all food by 10:00 pm the night before and all water by 6:00 am the day of your scheduled appointment. All medications should be continued as instructed unless you are told otherwise. For patients with special needs (i.e., diabetic), please contact your doctor prior to your appointment for specific instructions.

Staging refers to the use of several diagnostic tests to determine to what extent, if any, the cancer has spread in the body. Staging may include blood work sampling regional and distant lymph nodes, thoracic (chest) radiographs, abdominal radiographs or ultrasound, CT scan, MRI scan, , special stains, or bone marrow aspiration. Staging is important in determining the prognosis of a cancer and what treatment options are recommended.

Tumors are graded on a scale of low, intermediate, and high. These grades correlate to how fast growing and aggressive a malignant cancer may behave. Low-grade cancers typically grow slow and have a lower risk for spread than high-grade cancers. The tumor grade is important in the development of a treatment plan and anticipate a prognosis.

The conventional treatments for cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Novel treatments are being developed all the time and may be available.

Our goal for your pet is to have an 80-90% quality of life while receiving treatment. Each pet may experience different side effects and some may not experience any side effects at all. However, some effects could include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and decreased appetite. Most of these side effects are usually self-limiting. At the start of treatment we typically prescribe medications to help manage these side effects.

Some pets will lose their hair or may experience coat thinning. It usually depends on the type of chemotherapy and the breed of the dog. Wire-haired or non-shedding breeds may be particularly susceptible to chemotherapy. Certain breeds of dogs, such as terriers and poodles, will experience variable amounts of hair loss. Hair loss often is most evident on the face and tail.