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What Does a Veterinary Oncologist Do?

A veterinary oncologist may perform surgeries.
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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2014
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One of the most upsetting pieces of information that a pet owner can receive is that her dog or cat has cancer. In past decades, a cancer diagnosis meant putting the furry companion to sleep or euthanizing it. However, a veterinary oncologist can offer a pet owner the opportunity to lessen or even stop the animal’s pain and suffering and lengthen the survival period. In addition, there are many cases where the veterinary oncologist can completely treat and cure the pet’s cancer. As a result, understanding what a veterinary oncologist does is important for all pet owners.

Nearly 50% of dogs that are over ten years old die of cancer. This is an alarming and traumatic rate. However, current research on pet cancers, understanding of the role of the veterinary oncologist, and knowledge on the available options can be quite uplifting for those who receive such a diagnosis for their four-legged companion.

Oncology is a specialized field of veterinary medicine. Consequently, those who choose to pursue a career as a veterinary oncologist receive several extra years of training compared to a general practice veterinarian. However, she will know the latest information on cancer, she will be current on the best treatments available, and she will examine and treat hundred of animals that have been diagnosed with cancer annually.

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Among the duties of a veterinary oncologist is examining pets that have either been previously diagnosed with cancer or that owners or the animals’ general practice veterinarians suspect may have cancer. Oftentimes, she will review tests that were completed previously or suggest additional tests for the animal. Depending on the needs of the pet owner, she can take over the care of a pet with cancer or she can assist the general practice veterinarian by sharing knowledge, techniques, or even participate as needed in surgeries and chemotherapy.

When treating animals that have cancer, many of the same technologies are used that are seen in treating humans that have cancer. For example, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and photodynamic therapy are each possible scenarios for treating cancer in animals. Each method has pros and cons for a pet and a knowledgeable oncologist should be able to write up a report and explain the details of each method. In addition, she should be able to document the best treatment for the animal and the least costly treatment – for owners that are unable to pay for costly procedures.

A veterinary oncologist can also benefit people with her research. For example, osteosarcoma is a form of bone cancer that is rather prevalent in dogs; however it is only found in a small amount of people – between 10 and 20 years old. Before the research was performed, people with osteosarcoma were forced to amputate the affected limb; however, that is no longer the case because of the research completed by teams of veterinary oncologists.

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