At IndyVet Oncology our goal is to take the fear out of cancer therapy. We understand that a diagnosis of cancer in a beloved pet can be unsettling and often times scary. Today’s advances in treatment have allowed many cancers to be treated in dogs and cats, providing an improved quality of life.
At IndyVet, we have an entire department dedicated to caring for pets with cancer. Their expertise in treating pets with cancer compels them to stay abreast of the latest therapies. This compassionate dedication to cancer treatment allows IndyVet to provide the best outcomes possible.
Your pet's quality of life is the most important factor in choosing the best course of treatment. The IndyVet oncology staff helps guide each client through every step of the journey from diagnosis to treatment. Each therapeutic option and response expectation is discussed in detail so that a personalized treatment plan can be formulated. We understand that the best therapeutic choice depends upon many factors that must be fully considered.
A priority for the IndyVet oncology department is that patients remain comfortable and retain a normal life style during each step of their treatment. There are many paths to take when choosing treatment, all of which are correct when focused on patient quality of life. That is why pain management and palliative care are important aspects of IndyVet's cancer treatment plans. Our team works to provide innovative and progressive care to our cancer patients but is also there to provide compassionate hospice and end of life care when needed.
At IndyVet Oncology the purpose of patient centered care is to improve the quality of life of each patient so the special bond between pets and their owners is maintained. This is best accomplished with a close partnership between our team, the referring veterinarian, and the pet's family. Through this close collaboration the successful outcome, whatever that may be for each patient, is achieved. The IndyVet team is here 24/7/365 to ensure the best care is delivered to our patients day and night.
Commonly employed diagnostic procedures done at IndyVet Oncology include:
Bone Marrow Biopsy
Cancer is a complex disease that alters the body’s normal machinery. Multimodality therapy (a combination of different types of therapy used together) is commonly employed to target and treat cancer on various fronts. Please note that each treatment plan is customized and we work with you to determine the right care for your pet. At IndyVet we utilize many different methods to treat cancer in pets. Various treatments are used alone or in combination depending on the situation being addressed. Some of the methods used include:
Surgery: Surgery has historically been the most common technique to treat cancer in companion animals and people. The best chance to achieve complete removal of cancer is during the first surgical procedure and is best performed by surgeons with experience in surgical oncology. As the field of oncology has evolved, we have found that surgery can be used as a secondary tool after a tumor has been reduced in size by chemotherapy or radiation. Surgery can also be used in a palliative setting to help achieve relief of clinical signs for a period of time.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is drug therapy designed to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. Many of the drugs used to treat cancer in pets are derived from natural substances found in plants, trees, or bacteria and are often the same drugs used in people. Chemotherapy is frequently used to treat cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, to treat cancer that cannot be treated with surgery or radiation therapy alone, or when it may enhance the effectiveness of other treatments. The word chemotherapy often brings to mind images of patients sick in the hospital from side effects. For veterinary oncology, the goal of chemotherapy is very different in that it is designed to control or eliminate the cancer while still providing a high quality of life to your pet. Chemotherapy drugs are not ordinarily used to cure cancer, but rather to control it and to slow down the progression of the disease. Many chemotherapy protocols involve a series of treatments, followed by a period of careful monitoring of remission status. Chemotherapy may be continued as long as it is controlling the cancer, but only as long as quality of life is maintained.
The bio-hazard containment hood and personal protective apparel is used to prepare chemotherapy drugs for use. Patients are administered chemotherapy medication in a separate room to assure that no accidental exposure occurs to other IndyVet patients or personnel.
Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy is the use of ionizing radiation to damage the DNA in tumor cells resulting in tumor cell death. Radiation therapy is effective against cancer cells that are routinely dividing. Radiation therapy can be utilized in two ways: therapy with curative intent or radiation therapy with palliative intent. Curative intent protocols are given over a 3-4 week period where a small “fraction” of radiation is delivered each day. Palliative intent protocols are administered to relieve pain and compromising symptoms and to improve the quality of life of patients. Palliative protocols are used when the patient has advanced cancer, metastasis, or some other condition that would limit life expectancy. These protocols vary and may involve weekly treatments or therapy given over the course of a few days. While radiation therapy is not currently available on-site at IndyVet Oncology, our oncology staff coordinates the utilization of radiation as part, or all, of the therapeutic treatment plan in our patients.
Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapy is a form of chemotherapy that acts selectively against molecular targets expressed by some tumors and can interfere with tumor growth and progression. Targeted therapy is different from the non-specific destruction associated with traditional chemotherapy, which will kill any rapidly dividing cell population in the body (cancer cells and normal cells).
Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is a medical treatment that induces, enhances, or suppresses an immune response. The goal of immunotherapy as a treatment for cancer is to stimulate the patient’s own immune system to reject and destroy tumor cells. Options for immunotherapy in veterinary oncology are currently very limited, but there is ongoing research in this area that is very promising.
Palliative & Supportive Care: This type of treatment focused on improving the quality of life and not on curing cancer might include rehabilitation, pain management, nutritional support, and acupuncture, all of which are available at IndyVet.
IndyVet is an American Animal Hospital Association accredited hospital. AAHA is the only organization that inspects and accredits veterinary practices in North America. Every three years, AAHA evaluates approximately 900 standards of veterinary excellence in order to remain accredited. Less than 15% of veterinary practices in the United States hold the “AAHA accredited” designation.
While few cancers are completely cured, many can be pushed into remission for various lengths of time. Survival times of one year may seem trivial to pet owners, but one year to a dog or cat would be similar to 5 to 7 years to a person. By contrast, this does not seem so trivial. Success in veterinary oncology is measured in months to years, seldom in cures. As we pursue cancer therapy in veterinary medicine, survival times and outcomes improve year by year.
Carrissa Wood, DVM
Shauna Whicker, RVT, CVPM
Alicia Hansen, RVT