Oncology and Radiation Therapy

Veterinarian with veterinary technician

What is Cancer?

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells on or in the body. Cancer in pets is a relatively common disease and is the leading cause of death in pet dogs and cats. Not all cancer is the same but many types are treatable. In some cases we are able to control the cancer long term with specialized cancer care. Treatments offered for cancer in humans are increasingly available for pets, and include surgery, radiation therapy , chemotherapy , targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and clinical trials that investigate new drugs. While not every treatment is recommended for every pet, our goal upon consulting with you is to ensure you are aware of the options that may be available. Prior to determining treatment options, we gather important pieces of information including:

  • What type of cancer does your pet have?
  • How is your pet’s cancer likely to behave? (Is it more likely to grow in one location or spread to others?)
  • How advanced is your pet’s cancer?
  • Does your pet have other diseases or conditions that may impact treatment options?

 The Clinical Oncology Team:

Just as in human medicine, veterinary specialists are available to help general practitioners with complex cases. Veterinary specialists are individuals who have spent several years in intense training studying their disciplines and undergo rigorous examinations to ensure they meet qualifications of a specialist. The Oncology Service provides integrated oncology care with the colleagues in, soft tissue surgery, oncologic surgery, and radiation oncology who work to provide comprehensive care for referral cases. Adopting this integrated approach allows us to provide thoughtful approaches to oncology cases that may benefit from multi-modality therapy with surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. The oncology team is comprised of board-certified specialists in medical oncology, radiation oncology, soft tissue surgery, interns and residents in the midst of intense specialty training, and dedicated teams of nurses who strive to provide outstanding patient care. We also work closely with other specialty teams in radiology, internal medicine, clinical pathology and neurology to formulate unique plans for each pet. Finally, the specialty teams work closely with referring general practitioners to ensure that the entire care team is involved should pets follow up at practices closer to home after treatment.

Comparative Oncology:

The University of Minnesota is home to the Animal Cancer Care and Research (ACCR) Program, which supports clinical oncology service, but also strives to determine how cancers in animals are similar to cancers in humans. This allows us to develop new diagnostic and treatment strategies that may be helpful across species, or we may be able to use differences between species to develop new approaches. Clinical trials are an important means in which we learn about certain tumor types and participation in trials may help reduce some of the costs associated with cancer treatment. 

The Client-Pet-Oncology Team Relationship:

While the Oncology service offers a full range of diagnostic and therapeutic options for pets with cancer, not all clients will wish to pursue diagnosis and treatment. Our role is to help clients know which options are possible, and to help explain what to expect during different treatments, prognosis with treatment, and estimated costs associated with treatment. Ultimately, we want to provide loving and outstanding care to pets and clients with cancer, regardless of decisions made for diagnosis or treatment. Our care does not stop after the first consultation or after a final chemotherapy or radiation treatment; we are here to help manage quality-of life issues and/or assist with surveillance or monitoring regardless of what treatment (if any) a client chooses to pursue.

Client Handouts:

We are currently working to include many different client handouts on our website. Some clients wish to see some general information ahead of their appointment but this can also serve as a reference after an appointment. Please note that these are general information guides and not all information is applicable to your pet.  This is a work in progress so please bear with us as we provide comprehensive materials.