Welcome back to the world of veterinary specialists. With this series of blog posts my ongoing primary goal is to help you determine when your pet might benefit from a visit with a specialist. Thusfar we’ve covered ophthalmology, dermatology, and neurology. Now up to bat is oncology with surgery on deck.
The job of the veterinary oncologist entails diagnosing, staging, grading, and treating cancer. Staging and grading occur once the diagnosis has been made and involve testing to determine just how advanced/aggressive the cancer is. This is based on the microscopic appearance of the tumor as well as documentation of all the places within the body that the cancer has already managed to set up housekeeping. Perhaps the most important part of an oncologist’s job description is counseling their clients to help them make good choices on behalf of their four-legged family members.
When should your pet be evaluated by a board certified veterinary oncologist? Here are my recommendations:
- Your pet has a mass/growth that your family veterinarian believes may be cancerous. It may have been discovered during a physical examination (palpated externally or internally) or with an imaging study such as an X-ray or ultrasound.
- Your pet has a mass/growth that has been determined to be cancerous. In this situation I encourage you to view a consultation with an oncologist to be an information gathering endeavor- part of due diligence as your pet’s medical advocate. In no way will such a consultation obligate you to proceed forward with therapy.
- A mass/growth that your family vet treated in some fashion has recurred.
- The biopsy report (microscopic description) for a mass/growth that your family vet surgically removed indicates that some cancer cells were inadvertently left behind.
- You simply want a second opinion so as to be more certain about advice you’ve received from your family veterinarian.
To find a board certified veterinary oncologist in your neck of the woods or learn more about this specialty, visit the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Oncology is a subspecialty within this organization. If there is not a board certified oncologist practicing within your community, the next best choice will be a specialist in internal medicine. Because there are relatively few oncologists to go around, by default, most internists have vast experience diagnosing and treating cancer.
Have you and your pet ever visited a veterinary oncologist? What was the reason and what was the outcome?
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.
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