The oncology team at Summit knows that every pet is a very special individual, and we share your family’s commitment to providing the best quality of life for your pet for as long as possible. Our goal is to reduce your fear and anxiety about your pet’s diagnosis, by providing comprehensive education about the disease, prognosis, and options for treatment or supportive care. Every situation is unique, and no path is the right one for everybody. We will work with you and provide support as you decide what is best for your family and your pet.
Treatment of cancer may involve one or more types of approaches. The links below will tell you more about each.
When your pet’s tumor is restricted to one site or region of the body, surgery is frequently the treatment with the best chance of controlling that tumor long term. In cases where complete removal is not possible, surgery combined with radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be effective. When needed, we will seek consultation with a veterinary surgeon to ensure the best chance of success. For tumors with a high risk of spread, combining surgery with some form of systemic therapy provides the longest disease control times.
Chemotherapy is most often recommended for systemic cancers (lymphoma is the most common example), or for solid tumors that either present a high risk of spread (metastasis) or have already done so. In most cases chemotherapy as the sole treatment for a cancer will not cure the disease but many pets do experience tumor control with good quality of life for several weeks to months. Before starting any chemotherapy protocol, your doctor will thoroughly discuss the rationale and goals for treatment, as well as possible side effects of treatment.
Combined with surgery, radiation therapy is a very effective treatment for long term control of certain cancers. Radiation is also used as a primary treatment to improve quality of life (pain control) or temporarily control the growth of a cancer. Radiation is a local treatment and does require brief anesthesia episodes for our veterinary patients as we cannot expect them to hold still! The schedule of treatment and side effects vary with the location, tumor type, and goals of treatment. Availability of radiation treatment facilities is limited; we will discuss if radiation is appropriate for your pet and explain anticipated schedule, side effects, and cost prior to referral for treatment.
The melanoma vaccine is designed to stimulate your dog’s immune system to recognize and fight melanoma cells. This is not a preventative vaccine, but is used in patients with melanoma. The risk of adverse effects of this treatment is very low; in some cases, cosmetic changes in pigmented skin and hair may occur over several months. The vaccine is believed to be most effective when combined with local tumor control (surgery, radiation therapy).
Whether receiving specific anticancer treatment or not, we always want to consider your pet as a whole and pay attention to pain management, nutrition, exercise, and other quality of life issues. If you wish to use alternative therapies as part of your pet’s treatment, we do recommend that you seek a veterinarian specifically trained in this area; it is important that all of your pet’s doctors are aware of treatments the others are doing, to prevent adverse interactions.
Patients are our first priority, but we also believe in the importance of contributing to the body of knowledge in our field. Collecting and maintaining follow up records on our clinical patients can provide data for descriptive studies of treatments and outcomes. For prospective work, we primarily participate in efforts to collect patient samples and typically a blood draw is all that is needed. When possible, we also participate in clinical trials (we have no active clinical trials at the moment).
Currently, the oncology department is collecting blood samples for:
1. The Van Andel Institute: genetic research into several types of cancer in dogs
2. Development of a blood test for lymphoma in cats
Why did you specialize in oncology?
Over a few years in general practice, I developed an affinity for oncology cases. The appreciation I received from clients I counseled through the difficult news of the diagnosis provided its own reward, regardless of what they elected to do. Investigating options to help these patients was also more interesting to me than other categories of medicine. Though I was concerned that I might miss aspects of general practice (like surgery), the intellectual challenges of oncology and relationships with my patients and clients are completely fulfilling.
Is my pet’s cancer an emergency?
We understand that you will want to get as much information as quickly as you can and will work with you to achieve this goal. Some cancers are more aggressive, or painful, than others and we do reserve some priority appointments for these patients. Your veterinarian can consult with us to determine if your pet requires immediate specialist care, or if he/she can provide supportive care or perform additional diagnostics until an appointment with the oncologist is available. True emergencies are admitted by the oncologist when schedule permits, or in some cases by a critical care doctor.
Can my pet eat before chemotherapy visits?
Most of the time, the answer is yes. In fact, most of our patients remind us where the cookie jars are if we aren’t fast enough to offer one! Some procedures or treatments do require fasting, and our staff will inform you if your pet should be fasted on a particular day.
What side effects are expected with chemotherapy?
If my pet develops adverse effects following chemotherapy, where do I go?
If you are concerned that your pet may be developing moderate chemotherapy related side effects, please call our office and/or your family veterinarian. We can help you determine if symptomatic support at home is appropriate, or if evaluation by a veterinarian is recommended. You may take your pet to your family veterinarian or come to Summit, depending on your preference and schedule allowances. We will work with your veterinarian to make sure your pet receives the attention they need. After hours emergencies or concerns can be managed by Summit’s skilled emergency staff.
Can my pet be vaccinated while on chemotherapy?
In general, we recommend that vaccines not be administered during treatment with chemotherapy. It is possible that immune system suppression of chemotherapy may prevent the full benefit of a vaccine booster. In most cases waiting 8 weeks after completion of a chemotherapy course is advised. Please contact us if you have specific questions or concerns.
Can my pet receive flea medications or heartworm preventative during treatment?
Yes. We have no reason to suspect adverse interactions between parasite preventatives and drugs used to treat cancer in pets.
Why do you recommend exams and diagnostics following completion of treatment?
Though the prognosis for long term survival (for our dogs and cats, this usually means a year or more) is significantly reduced if your pet’s cancer returns or spreads, in many situations we do have options for treatment that may slow the progression of the disease. Routine monitoring is not a perfect system, but it will allow us to detect most cases of tumor recurrence before your pet develops symptoms of that recurrence.
American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care
Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society
European Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society – description of veterinary critical care
The Indoor cat initiative
American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Veterinary Cancer Society
Tripawds: A community site for owners of 3 legged pets; this is not a veterinary site but is helpful for support and ideas.Please discuss any therapeutic questions with your oncologist.
The Argus Institute
Pet Loss Support Line 1-866-266-8635
The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Degenerative Myelopathy information
Canine epilepsy information
Four Paws Animal Rehabilitation
Sumner Veterinary Rehabilitation and Conditioning
American College of Veterinary Radiology
Mobile Ultrasound. Animal Imaging Consultants
Illumipet Telemedicine Services
Ultrasound Education. Sonopath
American College of Veterinary Surgeons
American Veterinary Medical Association
Michigan Veterinary Specialists