Our trained team of board-certified medical oncologists, medical oncology residents, and skilled veterinary oncology nurses help pet owners navigate the decision-making process following a diagnosis of cancer.
The Medical Oncology service evaluates and treats any type of cancer, but some of the common types of cancer that we see include:
Lymphoma is one of the most common types of cancer that we treat in dogs and cats. There are many different forms of lymphoma, with the most common type in dogs causing enlargement of all of the lymph nodes. The swollen lymph nodes are usually large and non-painful. Many dogs diagnosed with this type of cancer have no other clinical signs (symptoms). Lymphoma is a type of cancer that often responds very well to treatment with chemotherapy, which often induces a complete remission (meaning that all evidence of cancer goes away with treatment). Lymphoma often relapses (recurs) and requires more treatment to keep it under control for as long as possible.
Bladder cancer (transitional cell carcinoma or urothelial carcinoma) is an uncommon cancer in dogs, and it is similar to the most aggressive forms of human bladder cancer. This type of cancer has been a focus of research for over 30 years at Purdue. This cancer can cause blood in the urine (hematuria) and straining to urinate (stranguria). Eventually, this cancer can lead to blockage of urine flow, which can be life threatening. Chemotherapy can help shrink or slow down this type of cancer. We often have clinical trials for dogs with this type of cancer that can provide access to standard of care treatments and new investigational drugs.
Hemangiosarcoma is an often frightening type of cancer that is usually discovered when a dog suddenly has blood in its belly (hemoabdomen) without any inciting cause. This type of cancer often grows in the spleen and then can rupture or bleed, leading to a life-threatening emergency. Symptoms (clinical signs) may include pale gums, distended belly, weakness, and collapse. Emergency surgery can be life-saving, but this type of cancer almost always metastasizes (spreads) to the lungs. Treatment with chemotherapy following splenectomy can improve outcomes in dogs with hemangiosarcoma compared to surgery alone.
Mast Cell Tumors
Mast cell tumors are one of the most common cancers of the skin in dogs. This type of cancer has variable behavior, with some tumors cured with surgery and some tumors having a high risk of recurrence and metastasis (spread). We recommend surgery whenever possible for mast cell tumors, and recommend staging to look for evidence of cancer spread and chemotherapy for the more aggressive forms of this cancer. Dogs that get one mast cell tumor are more likely to develop more mast cell tumors later in life, so any new lump or bump in a dog with a history of mast cell tumor should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
Osteosarcoma is the most common tumor of bones in dogs. This cancer usually causes a painful swelling just above the carpus (wrist), high on the shoulder, or near the stifle (knee). This cancer frequently metastasizes (spreads) to the lungs. Treatment for osteosarcoma often involves amputation of the affected leg or radiation therapy, followed by chemotherapy to slow the rate of cancer spread. Luckily, dogs readily adapt following an amputation, and some of our happiest, strongest patients are living their best lives on three legs.
A biopsy involves removing a small piece of tissue from a mass, usually under heavy sedation or general anesthesia. This tissue is submitted to an anatomic pathologist in order to determine what type of cancer is present and can often identify features that suggest an aggressive type of cancer that is likely to spread, or a less aggressive type of cancer that is unlikely to spread.
Bone Marrow Aspirates
A bone marrow aspirate uses a large needle to collect a sample of bone marrow, usually under heavy sedation or general anesthesia. This procedure is indicated to look for evidence of cancers that may spread to the bone marrow and to evaluate the bone marrow any time there are abnormally low or high numbers of different types of cells in the blood.
Staging is the term for determining the extent of cancer and looking for evidence of cancer spread (metastasis). Staging tests typically involve labwork, diagnostic imaging (computed tomography, x-rays, and/or ultrasound), collection of biopsy samples and fine needle aspirate samples. These test allow us to determine the best treatment options for a pet's cancer. Staging tests are typically repeated at regular intervals to monitor for response to treatment, cancer progression, or cancer recurrence.
Diagnostic tools such as endoscopy, cystoscopy, CT, and MRI are available as well as treatment modalities such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.
Closed System Transfer Device (CTSD) and Biological Safety Cabinet
We utilize a closed system transfer device (CTSD) and a biological safety cabinet in a clean room in to prepare and administer chemotherapy to provide the safest environment for our patients and staff. These engineering controls ensure that chemotherapy residues do not escape into the environment and are the "gold standard" for preparation and administration of chemotherapy drugs.
Cystoscopy involves passing a small camera through the urethra (the tube that brings urine out of the body from the bladder) and into the bladder under general anesthesia. This technique allows us to visualize tumors inside of the urethra and bladder, and to collect biopsy samples. This is a minimally invasive procedure that allows us to obtain a samples from suspected bladder tumors without risking spread (tumor seeding) by passing needles into the tumor through the body wall.
Will chemotherapy make my pet sick?
Most dogs and cats that are undergoing chemotherapy do not have serious side effects from chemotherapy treatment—many actually feel better after starting treatment! Most chemotherapy drugs have the potential to cause decreased white blood cell counts (which can increase the risk of infection) and stomach upset (decreased appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea). Patients undergoing chemotherapy are monitored closely for side effects. If any side effects do occur, the dose of chemotherapy may be reduced or other medications may be prescribed to treat or prevent them.
Will chemotherapy make my pet lose its fur?
While chemotherapy drugs often make people lose their hair, most dogs and cats that are undergoing chemotherapy do not lose all of their fur while they are undergoing treatment. Dogs with continually growing fur are more likely to experience chemotherapy-induced alopecia than dogs that do not have continually growing fur, and cats are more likely to lose their whiskers than fur on other parts of their body. You may notice that areas of fur that are shaved may take a bit longer to grow back. Most dogs and cats do not experience significant alopecia during chemotherapy treatment.
- If you notice a mass (a lump or bump) on your pet, have it evaluated by your pet's primary care veterinarian. The first step for any lump or bump is typically a fine needle aspirate (FNA) to obtain a cytology sample. A clinical pathologist can evaluate this sample to help determine if the mass is cancerous or non-cancerous.
- If your veterinarian removes a mass (a lump or bump) from your pet, make sure that mass is submitted to an anatomic pathologist to determine if it is a benign tumor (unlikely to spread or recur if completely removed) or a malignant cancer (likely to spread even if completely removed). Knowing the type of cancer that is present is essential to determine the best treatment options available.
- Routine evaluations by your pet's primary care veterinarian can help detect cancer earlier, which increases our chances successful treatment.
Click here for more information on Oncology from the Evan and Sue Ann Werling Comparative Oncology Research Center (WCORC).
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24/7 Emergency Phone: 765-494-1107
Small Animal Hospital Entrances:
- EMERGENCY - Small Animal Emergency
- Entrance A - Lynn Hall Small Animal Lobby
- Entrance B - David & Bonnie Brunner Small Animal Lobby
625 Harrison St
West Lafayette, IN 47907
New appointments should include a referral from your primary veterinarian or our Small Animal Primary Care service. Call us at 765-494-1107 if you have questions or to make an appointment.
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