I started the Canine Cancer Academy because I wanted more people to have the information needed to make educated decisions for their dogs with cancer.
Cancer in dogs is a very common problem. More than 50% of dogs over 10 years old will develop cancer. These dogs will do best if they are diagnosed quickly and correctly.
Unfortunately (as you may have heard me say before), veterinarians do not receive much training in cancer in vet school. Most vet schools actually only include about 8 hours of cancer training in the entire curriculum - you can't learn very much in 8 hours. Some vet students will elect to spend two weeks on the oncology (cancer) service during the final year of their studies, but again, you can't learn how to treat cancer in 8 hours plus two weeks of seeing cases.
Because of this, many dog owners will receive inaccurate or outdated advice when their dog is diagnosed with cancer by a family veterinarian. Clients often tell me that their vet has said there were no options, based on information that was decades old.
This is always unfortunate because we have some excellent treatment options today that we not previously available (even 5 years ago) and we're constantly learning how to improve quality of life during treatment so that our patients have good experiences. We can't expect a general practitioner to be an expert at everything - there's just too much to know!
If your dog is diagnosed with cancer and you want to make sure you are receiving the latest information available, see an oncologist. Many oncologists do not require a referral from a family veterinarian, so you can request the appointment yourself. Otherwise, just tell your vet that you want to hear all the possible options for your dog's cancer, and ask them which oncologist they might recommend in your area.
If you don't have an oncologist locally (I've had some people drive a few hours to see me), you can ask your vet to call the nearest oncologist and they can discuss possible options for your dog over the phone. This isn't as good as seeing an oncologist in person, but it can still be helpful.
There are many people that come to see me just so they're comfortable knowing that they've heard all of the options and they have a better idea of what to expect, even if they decide not to treat their dog. Often having more information can go a long way in helping to give peace of mind.
If you're thinking about getting a second opinion and would like to try to find an oncologist in your area, try these links below, ask friends, or even try a Google search!
Have questions about this article? Reach out!
Dr. Lori Cesario
Board Certified Veterinary Oncologist
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