The oncology department at Long Island Veterinary Specialists is dedicated to treating dogs and cats with all types of cancer. With recent advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment options, long-term control or “cure” of cancer in pets is often a reality. The diagnostic imaging modalities available to our cancer patients include conventional radiography, scintigraphy, thermography, ultrasonography, computed tomography (CT) and 3.0 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).The three main methods of removing cancer cells from the body include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. At LIVS, we offer all three methods of cancer therapy, depending upon the specific tumor type and the patient.
In addition to our board-certified veterinary oncologist, we have surgeons whose main interest and expertise are in oncologic surgery. Surgery can be used to remove a section of a tumor for examination (incisional biopsy) or to remove all visible tumor for purposes of both tumor eradication and examination (excisional biopsy).
Chemotherapy deals with the administration of a variety of drugs that preferentially damage or destroy rapidly growing cells (like most cancer cells). Depending on the specific type of cancer, these chemotherapeutic drugs may be administered orally, subcutaneously or intravenously. Unlike the situation in human cancer chemotherapy, veterinary patients rarely suffer severe side effects of chemotherapy. However, since some patients may experience adverse effects like transient vomiting/diarrhea, mild hair loss and/or bone marrow suppression (which can predispose to infection), we carefully monitor all patients undergoing chemotherapy and address any side effects that may occur during treatment.
Radiation therapy also preferentially damages rapidly dividing cells and is often used as either a sole method of anticancer therapy or in conjunction with chemotherapy and/or surgery. In general, radiation therapy involves megavoltage radiation therapy administered over multiple sessions via an external beam that is derived from a radioactive element. These treatments are given over several weeks on a daily basis and require specialized equipment and a shielded room. Although often effective, megavoltage radiation therapy is often very expensive and involves extended hospitalization times and travel to an institution that has the necessary equipment.
At LIVS, we have pioneered the application of a specific type of radiation therapy-called brachytherapy-to dogs and cats. Brachytherapy involves the use of a tiny implantable x-ray tube into the tumor and the radioactivity is administered to that tube (and to the surrounding cancer cells) from a portable x-ray source (rather than a radioactive material as with conventional radiation therapy). This method of radiation therapy appears to be effective for a variety of tumor types. It also is less expensive than conventional external beam therapy and may deliver less damaging radiation to normal tissue surrounding the target cancer cells than is delivered via external beam therapy. Finally, brachytherapy can be delivered over a much shorter time period than conventional external beam therapy.
There are a wide variety of cancers that affect virtually every system of the body. Below is a list of the more common tumors that we deal with regularly at LIVS:
Specific Oncologic Conditions
- Skin tumors (e.g., mast cell tumors)
- Mammary tumors
- Tumors of the respiratory system (e.g., lung tumors)
- Bone tumors (e.g., osteosarcoma)
- Splenic (spleen) tumors (e.g., hemangiosarcoma)
- Liver tumors
- Intestinal tumors
- Bladder tumors
- Renal (kidney) tumors
- Adrenal gland tumors
- Brain tumors
- Spinal tumors
The oncology department works as a team, and that philosophy often necessitates coordination and cooperation between the oncology department and other departments at LIVS. For example, effective treatment of a patient with a brain tumor would necessitate interaction with the neurology and surgery departments. Because of this interactive approach to patient management, you may be contacted by more than one doctor from more than one department to ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of the options available for treating your pet.
Family members and family veterinarians are contacted after all procedures that require anesthesia once a patient is fully recovered. This is typically in the afternoon or early evening. For hospitalized patients, daily updates are provided to owners between 10 am until 12 noon until the time of discharge. In patients with constantly changing medical status (such as those in critical condition), updates are accordingly provided more frequently. Family members are asked not to call after hours for additional updates from the emergency department staff members. Visitation is generally discouraged during brief hospitalization periods (less than five days) because pets often become distressed following the departure of their family members at the end of such visits.
Our patients generally acclimate to their new surroundings (including fold-down beds with fleece blankets and exercise pads) and are kept comfortable by our 24-hour support staff. In certain circumstances (such as longer hospitalization periods) visitations can be arranged by appointments made by our staff members. When a patient is sent home, the family veterinarian is sent a typed summary of the medical record, including surgical and biopsy information.
Hospital discharges are scheduled with discharge technicians by appointment, in order to provide uninterrupted time for family members to ask questions, discuss medications and become familiar and comfortable with after-care instructions. When appropriate (mainly dependent on the state of the surgical incision if surgery was performed), patients will be bathed or cleaned prior to release from the hospital.