Oncology refers to the assessment and treatment of animals with a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of a tumour or cancer. We understand that this can be a very difficult and emotional time, but we are here to explain, discuss, guide and support you to choose what are the best options for you and your pet. At all times we will place the welfare of your pet at the forefront of the decisions we make.

It is important to realise that not all cancers are the same and their biological behaviour can vary from patient to patient, and therefore our treatment recommendations and their associated outcomes can also differ. In general, however, the three main treatment modalities used in oncology patients are: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Immunotherapies and targeted therapies also now play an important role in the treatment of some forms of cancer.

As vets, we often have different aims in our treatment compared to that of human doctors, so we strive to reduce and avoid side-effects associated with treatment where we can and we will tailor each treatment to be right for your pet, so you can come to see us safe in the knowledge that we will do everything we can to make your pet feel well.

The type of treatment recommended will depend on the type of cancer and while in some cases a single modality will be used (for example, most types of lymphoma are treated with chemotherapy), in others, a so called “multimodality approach” (i.e. more than one treatment modality) may be advised. It is important to highlight that each patient is different and therefore what may work for one may not necessarily work or be recommended to another.

What happens when my pet is referred to oncology?

During the first appointment we will explain and discuss the type of cancer your pet has been diagnosed with, alongside possible treatment options and the prognosis. In most cases further investigations are recommended and these may include additional laboratory tests (for example blood tests or tests on the tumour sample already taken) as well as imaging tests to “stage” the disease (i.e. assess if the tumour is still localised or has spread to other organs).

Imaging tests performed may include CT scan, MRI scan, radiography (x-rays) and ultrasound. Depending on the results, the treatment options and prognosis may change. At the end of the consultation, if you feel you would like some time to think about options, we can arrange a follow up appointment prior to embarking in any investigations or treatment.

My primary care vet has already performed some tests. Will my pet have to undergo more tests?

Additional tests may be required to either confirm the diagnosis or to better understand the type of cancer we are dealing with. Furthermore, additional investigations may be offered in order to better understand the extension of the tumour and better tailor treatment options and associated prognosis. All these will be discussed at the time of the first consultation alongside associated costs.

Will my pet be treated with chemotherapy?

This depends on the type of cancer your pet has been diagnosed with. Chemotherapy can be the main treatment modality for certain cancers (for example most lymphomas), but it can also be used before or after other treatments (like surgery or radiation therapy).

If my pet receives chemotherapy will they have to stay in?

Chemotherapy is normally given on an outpatient basis at regular intervals. Prior to each chemotherapy treatment, blood tests are routinely performed in order to ensure that it is safe for your pet to receive the treatment. Therefore, although this may take some time, we do not anticipate patients to stay overnight for this.

Will my pet be ill during the treatment?

How each patient reacts to the chemotherapy treatment is very variable and cannot be predicted. Prophylactic treatments are therefore often used to try to prevent adverse effects from happening. However, while most patients may develop only mild adverse effects if any, in other cases, some pets may experience more severe adverse effects that may require more intensive treatments, including hospitalisation. It is therefore important to get in touch with us at any time if you have any concerns regarding your pet after receiving chemotherapy.

What if my pet is unwell after chemotherapy?

It is very important to monitor pets after receiving chemotherapy treatments. In most cases, the adverse effects from chemotherapy are mild, short-lasting and can be addressed with supportive medications (often dispensed at the time of discharge from the chemotherapy appointment). However, patients undergoing chemotherapy are at an increased risk of sepsis which is life-threatening and needs to be treated urgently. Therefore, it is extremely important not to underestimate any signs that your pet may show after chemotherapy and to contact us. If we are concerned, we may recommend for your pet to be seen and hospitalisation may be required.