VCA Braelinn Village Animal Hospital provides a unique pet cancer service that provides a personalized approach to treating and supporting cancer patients and their families. Our goal is to provide the latest technologies available to diagnose our veterinary patients and determine the extent of disease, offer a variety of treatment options, and practice with a commitment to quality and compassionate care.
Learning that your pet has a diagnosis of cancer can be overwhelming. We realize that your pet is an important member of your family who deserves the best cancer treatment available.
Our oncology doctors will talk with you about your pet's diagnosis and discuss available treatment options. We strive to provide comprehensive, up-to-date cancer treatments with a primary focus on good quality of life. Together, we will formulate a plan that fits your treatment goals while keeping your pet's best interest in mind.
Questions About Oncology
What is cancer?
Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells divide in an uncontrolled fashion and these abnormal cells have the potential to spread throughout the body (metastasis). There are various kinds of cancer and they differ significantly in how frequently they arise, the tissue or organ they originate from and their potential to spread to other organs.
What causes cancer?
The conversion of normal cells into a cancer cell is a complex, multi-step process that typically takes many years to unfold. Despite the complexity of this process, however, many initiating causes in people are known. These initiating causes are likely similar in our pets. Cancer is essentially the result of non-lethal genetic damage to cells (mutations in the DNA genome). Causes of such mutations include radiation, chemicals, hormones and infections. Some damage to cellular DNA is a daily 'wear and tear' event but all mammals have many safeguards to prevent or repair such damage. Nonetheless, such protective mechanisms are not flawless. In some individuals there are even defects in such defenses, resulting in a higher than expected prevalence of cancer. Some of those defects in protection can be inherited and in purebred dogs this can result in inherited predispositions to cancer development. In other instances, damage to DNA is caused by excessive cellular injury. The mutated DNA upsets the normal regulation of cell growth allowing uncontrolled and careless growth of the 'altered' cells that no longer obey the rules governing coordinated cell activity.
How is cancer diagnosed?
Cancer may be suspected from clinical signs (a visible mass, loss of appetite and energy, loss of weight for example). Additional diagnostics, such as X-rays, ultrasound, or MRI may be useful in detecting internal tumor. Blood tests can be helpful to diagnose some leukemias. However, in order to diagnose most tumor types, it is necessary to obtain a sample of the tumor tissue itself. Ways in which a tumor sample may be obtained include: needle aspiration, Tru-cut biopsy, punch biopsy, and full excision removal via surgery. The preparation and microscopic examination of stained sections from the removed tissue is called histopathology. This is performed at a specialized laboratory where a veterinary pathologist examines the sides.
The histopathology report typically includes a description that indicates whether a tumor is 'benign' (non-spreading, local growth) or 'malignant' (capable of spreading to other body sites), the origin or type of tumor, tumor margins (if the tumor was completely removed) and the tumor grade (degree of resemblance to normal cells). These results will help predict overall prognosis (probability of local recurrence or metastasis).
Can cancer disappear without treatment?
Cancer rarely disappears without treatment. However, the body's immune system can attack cancer cells using mechanisms that specifically target tumor cells that are recognized as 'foreign'. These mechanisms include immune system cells such as cytotoxic lymphocytes and macrophages and antibody production. Not all tumors are recognized as foreign and even when they are, the immune system is rarely 100% effective in eliminating the cancer. In rare instances, a loss of blood supply to a cancerous growth, by pressure on its own supply for example, will result in tumor cell death. Often, the remaining tissue will need surgical removal.
What types of treatment are available?
The most common and often most effective treatment is surgical removal of a tumor. For tumors that are too big or too numerous to be removed or that are in inaccessible locations, other treatments can be considered. These include drugs (chemotherapy), immunotherapy (specific or non-specific stimulation of the immune system), and radiation. New approaches such as gene-based therapies are under development.
Our Oncology Expertise
Bone marrow aspirates
Cystostomy tube placement
Cytology, in house
Palliative treatments (treatments to control pain and improve quality of life)
PEG tube placement