A diagnosis of cancer in your pet can be a very difficult and emotional time, but there are now many treatment options for pets with cancer available through the SASH Oncology service.
Our first priority is to maintain quality of life and ensure your pet remains happy and comfortable for as long as possible. Chemotherapy can be a difficult experience for people but for our pets it is very different. The Oncology staff at SASH make sure that each appointment and treatment is as quick as possible and each patient receives the individual care and attention they deserve. Although side effects from chemotherapy are possible, they are rare, and the SASH Oncology department work closely with our patient’s owners and referring veterinarians if side effects do occur.
Similarly, to a cancer diagnosis in people, pets can get various types and subtypes of cancers, which respond differently to a variety of treatments. This means that with each pet, the Oncologists at SASH will develop a treatment plan specifically tailored to them. Some common types of cancer diagnosed in veterinary patients include lymphoma, osteosarcoma, mast cell tumours and soft tissue sarcomas (just to name a few).
The first step in cancer treatment is the diagnosis. Depending on the type of cancer, procedures such as fine needle aspirates, tissue biopsies and immunohistochemistry or PCR tests may help to further characterise the individual patient’s cancer. The second step is to assess for spread, also known and metastasis. This is referred to as staging. Many cancers (such as osteosarcoma, melanoma, mammary cancer and high mast cell tumours) will to the local lymph nodes, lungs and liver and the presence or absence of spread (metastasis) can be helpful to determine prognosis and appropriate treatment options.
After diagnosis, the treatment plan for your pet will then depend on the type of cancer, what stage it is at, pathological results and your personal wishes. Options may include palliation, chemotherapy (injectable vs oral tablets), surgery or radiation therapy (radiotherapy). Sometimes, cancer is best treated with combinations of these treatment options. The Oncologists at SASH have the ability to work closely with surgical specialists and radiation oncologists to provide a multidisciplinary co-operative approach for the care of patients.
It is important to know that chemotherapy in animals is different from people. Side effects like vomiting and diarrhoea are minimised because of the drugs and doses used by our specialist oncologists, registrars and residents. With most chemotherapy plans, side effects if they occur are mild and resolve quickly and hair loss does not commonly occur. Newer therapies such as immunotherapies and tyrosine kinase inhibitors are revolutionising the treatment of cancer in humans and these therapies are becoming more common in the treatment of pets with cancer. The most recent veterinary cancer advancements include the development of a xenogenic melanoma vaccine (ONCEPT) for dogs with melanoma and the tyrosine kinase inhibitors (Toceranib/Palladia) for treatment of mast cell tumours, metastatic thyroid and anal sac cancer and other metastatic cancers in dogs and cats. Both of these treatment options are both currently available through SASH. At this time, a state of the art linear accelerator for the radiation treatment of pets is being installed at SASH North Ryde. This machine will have the ability to deliver definitive radiation, stereotactic radiation and palliative radiation to veterinary patients and will benefit patients with most types of cancer.
Some oncology treatment plans require you to bring your pet to the hospital but other oral chemotherapy treatments can be given at home. During the treatment, we will need to monitor your pet’s blood cells and internal organ function, as they can be affected by medication, but we can discuss whether this can be performed by your local vet. Visits to the SASH Oncology department can be scheduled Monday – Saturday in both the morning and afternoon. Most procedures and treatments are able to be performed within a couple of hours or within the day.
We didn’t know what was wrong with our dog, Tiger except that he was not well. We took him to SASH Emergency and they called in an Oncology Specialist. Within a day and a half they confirmed Tiger had a type of cancer and they started treating him for it. That was six months ago and Tiger is in remission and in great shape.
Meet the oncology team at SASH here.