June 19, 2024
Veterinary Oncology

Veterinary Oncology: Cancer Care for our Furry Friends

Cancer is an unfortunate reality that impacts both humans and animals. Just like humans, our pets can develop various types of cancers. Veterinary oncology is a growing specialty area of veterinary medicine focused on the diagnosis, treatment and management of cancer in pets. With advancements in treatment modalities and an expanding knowledge base, veterinary oncologists are helping pets fight cancer and live longer, healthier lives.

What is Veterinary Oncology?
A veterinary oncologist is a veterinarian who has received advanced training in the field of oncology. Their focus is on the diagnosis and treatment of various cancers affecting dogs, cats and other companion animals. Veterinary oncologists undergo rigorous post-graduate training programs to gain expertise in areas like surgical oncology, clinical oncology, radiation oncology and experimental oncology. They work closely with veterinary pathologists, internal medicine specialists, surgeons and veterinary technicians to deliver comprehensive cancer care.

Types of Cancers Seen in Pets

Some common types of cancers affecting pets include:

– Mast Cell Tumors: One of the most common skin cancers seen in dogs. Veterinary Oncology can range from benign to highly malignant. Early detection and surgical removal are key to treatment.

– Lymphoma: A cancer of the lymphatic system seen frequently in dogs. Treatment may involve chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy or radiation therapy. Prognosis depends on various factors.

– Oral Melanoma: An aggressive cancer seen in middle-aged to older dogs that typically arises in the mouth. Surgery along with radiation and chemotherapy are utilized for management.

– Hemangiosarcoma: An aggressive cancer of blood vessel walls commonly affecting Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds. Surgical removal of primary tumors followed by chemotherapy can help prolong survival.

– Mammary Cancer: The most common cancer of the mammary glands in intact female dogs. Spaying reduces the risk. Lump removal with or without adjuvant therapies is the mainstay of treatment.

– Transitional Cell Carcinoma: A cancer of the urinary tract seen in older cats. Diagnosis is typically made after cystoscopy and biopsy. Surgery along with chemotherapy provides the best chance of remission.

Diagnostic Modalities in Veterinary Oncology
Veterinary oncologists utilize various advanced diagnostic tools to accurately diagnose and stage cancers:

– Fine Needle Aspiration/Biopsy: Minimally invasive procedures used to obtain samples for cytology/histopathology to confirm cancer type.

– Imaging Modalities: Radiography, ultrasound, CT and MRI help locate primary and metastatic tumors. They are also used for treatment planning and monitoring response.

– Endoscopy/Cystoscopy: Endoscopic examination of internal organs like lungs, bronchi, esophagus, stomach and urinary tract allows biopsy of abnormalities.

– Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy: Used for certain cancers like oral melanoma and mammary tumors to identify spread to lymph nodes.

– Tumor Markers: Measurement of tumor markers in blood/urine aids diagnosis, staging and monitoring treatment in certain cancers.

Treatment Options in Veterinary Oncology
Based on cancer type, stage and biological behavior, veterinary oncologists employ multiple therapeutic options singly or in combination:

Surgery
Surgical excision of the primary tumor remains a mainstay for many localized cancers. Advancements like laser surgery and fine endoscopic instruments allow minimally invasive removal of difficult tumors.

Chemotherapy
Chemotherapeutic protocols help treat cancers that have metastasized. Drugs given orally or intravenously act by interfering with rapidly dividing cancer cells. Dose calculations factor in pet-specific parameters like size and organ function.

Radiation Therapy
This localized treatment utilizes high-energy ionizing rays to damage DNA of cancer cells in the treatment area. It is given external beam or as brachytherapy using radioactive seeds/pellets placed near tumors. Careful planning and multimodal use improves outcomes.

Targeted Therapy
Biological response modifiers and monoclonal antibodies are a more targeted therapeutic approach against specific tumor markers and cancer growth signals. They cause fewer side effects than conventional chemotherapy.

Integrative Oncology
Integrative modalities like acupuncture, herbs and nutritional supplementation are sometimes recommended along with conventional therapies to boost quality of life and immune function during cancer treatment.

Prognosis and Follow Up
With early diagnosis and aggressive multi-modality treatment, the prognosis for many pet cancers has improved significantly over the past decade. Veterinary oncologists follow patients closely, monitoring response through repeat exams, imaging and re-biopsy. They provide long-term wellness care along with palliative options to maximize a pet’s quality of remaining life.

Veterinary oncology continues to advance at a rapid pace. Dedicated cancer hospitals, specialized therapies and clinical trials now give many pets fighting cancer a real fighting chance. With medical breakthroughs occurring every day, the goals of lengthening survival times while optimizing pet well-being come ever closer to reality.

*Note:
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it