Frequently Asked Questions
Unfortunately, like in humans, the reason why pets develop cancer is multifactorial and not well known. There are some risk factors but no clear answers of what causes the disease.
There are multiple treatment options to treat cancer in pets with unfortunately too many variables to discuss. We encourage you to come and have a consult with one of our Oncologists and they will be able to evaluate your pet, discuss survival based on possible treatment plans and go over costs to make sure it is something you want to do. Our goal is to give you all the right tools to help you and your pet fight cancer as efficiently as possible.
Pets can develop all types of cancers including but not limited to:
• Mast Cell Tumor
• Bladder Transitional Cell Carcinomas
• Soft tissue sarcomas/fibrosarcomas
• Apocrine Gland Anal Sac Adenocarcinomas
• Thyroid carcinomas
• Mammary Tumors
• Prostate Tumors
• Ocular Tumors
Prognosis refers to the estimated outcome of a disease. Our oncologists do their best to provide you with accurate information about your pet’s disease based on their years of expertise, veterinary research and your pet’s overall health. Sometimes patients live longer than originally expected, but unfortunately other patients may not survive the estimated length of time. Diseases can progress despite treatment and other conditions may arise throughout treatment.
Remission means that the pet has no visible signs of disease. Remission does not mean that the cancer is cured, but that it is being controlled to the point that it is not affecting your pet’s quality of life. Most canine and feline cancers are incurable, but we aim to achieve and /or hold remission for as long as possible. Although achieving an early remission is a good sign, it is not prognostic. Even after they are in remission, it is important to continue chemotherapy for as long as the oncologist deems necessary to prevent the disease from re-lapsing. Some patients will not go into remission and may need to be on chemotherapy indefinitely to be able to keep them as happy as possible.
Staging refers to the tests performed to find out how extensive the disease is. This is usually consisting of full blood work, thoracic radiographs, abdominal ultrasound, +/- CT scan of the affected part. This is usually performed prior to initiating treatment and sometimes after the treatment is completed. This can be performed at any time during treatment if the patient is having symptoms that deem these tests necessary. These tests can also be performed if you wish to do so to learn more about the status of your pet, the main reason we do not do them routinely is due to cost.
Soft Tissue Sarcoma is a group of benign or malignant tumors that form in an animal’s soft and/or connective tissues. Most commonly, the tumors form in the smooth and skeletal muscles, lymph vessels, blood vessels, and fatty tissues, but they can actually arise in any part of the body. This results in there being several types of sarcomas under the soft tissue sarcoma umbrella, including fibrosarcomas, histiocytomas, myxosarcomas, malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, liposarcomas, and lymphangiosarcomas, among others.
A treatment protocol is a scheduled treatment plan that has been previously studied and maximized to achieve the best treatment response. It is best to stick to this schedule as strictly as possible. Treatments can sometimes vary from the protocol depending on multiple factors, please discuss your pet’s protocol schedule if you are planning to go out of town, etc. If the patient’s disease progresses while on chemotherapy, the protocol will be altered to meet the presenting scenario. If the patient is doing well and in remission, the protocol should be completed as originally planned or as deemed necessary by the oncologist.
Chemotherapy is typically well tolerated in animals; it is not as toxic as it is in humans. Our goal is to be effective against cancer while keeping a good quality of life. There are always potential side effects to treatment, including but not limited to vomiting, diarrhea, decrease appetite, suppressed immune system, hair loss, and lethargy. If any of these side effects occur, for the most part, they can be easily managed with medications at home or in rare cases, hospitalization may be required.
If you have any concerns please do not hesitate to contact us, we will be glad to assist you over the phone or if needed have you come in to the clinic. If you are having an emergency after business hours, please contact the closest emergency clinic for guidance. Please allow a 24-hour window to refill medications, so please be attentive with how many medications you have left.
Chemotherapy is mostly given intravenously or orally. If given orally it is important to minimize contact with the drugs by using gloves when handling the medication and washing your hands afterwards. If given intravenously, the oncology team at the Pet Cancer Group takes all the necessary precautions to safely administer it to your pet. Typically, an indwelling catheter is placed and secured before we administer the chemotherapy, or we use a butterfly catheter depending on the chemotherapy being administered. Your pet will go home with a bandage on one of their legs, please make sure the bandage is removed within 1-2 hours after leaving the hospital. Most patients will have shaved sections on their legs due to necessary cleanliness required to administer the chemotherapy. If the chemotherapy is administered outside the vein, severe complications can occur, this is why fractious/difficult to control patients may need to be sedated.
A typical chemotherapy appointment can take an average of an hour. Once the patient is admitted, a blood sample is collected and processed in house. After that, one of the doctors will evaluate the patient and based on their findings and blood work results, they will determine if the chemotherapy is acceptable to administer. After calculating the adequate dose and depending on the chemotherapy administered, the administration process can take from 10-30 minutes. After that, the patient can go home. However, during some visits additional tests may be recommended. We try our best to stay on schedule but due to emergencies and unplanned situations the visits may not flow as expected, we appreciate your patience and understanding during those circumstances.
As long as your pet is on a well-balanced diet, there is no need to change the diet now that they have been diagnosed with cancer. If you decide to change their diet, please do so gradually over four days. Diet changes can cause vomiting and/or diarrhea and it will be impossible to rule out if those signs are disease, chemotherapy or diet change related.
Chemotherapy drugs are excreted in the urine or feces but are mostly metabolized already and not active. Therefore, chemotherapy can be present in only small concentrations in the urine or feces. Avoid direct contact as you normally would when you handle urine or feces and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. If available, wear gloves and absorbent paper to pick up and clean the area.
We will do our best to keep your pet as healthy as we can with no changes needed to their daily routine. They may not walk or exercise for as long as they normally do, but still allow them to go out and do their normal activities.
The cost of chemotherapy can vary based on few factors, including recommended chemotherapy drugs, how they are administered and size of the patient. Pet Cancer Group will show you an estimated cost before any procedure or treatment is performed that day. We do our best to give you an accurate prediction for chemotherapy cost at your initial consultation, but this is always subject to change depending on your pet’s response to treatment.
Once your pet successfully completes his chemotherapy protocol, we enter a monitoring phase with periodic recheck examinations. In some cases, we monitor with additional testing (blood work, radiographs, ultrasound, CT scans, etc). If your pet comes out of remission or develops a secondary condition, further therapy may be required.
As long as your pet is doing well, our oncologists will work hand-in-hand with your other doctor to ensure the best outcome for your pet.
Yes, both Miami, Ft Lauderdale and West Palm Beach locations are equipped with all the tools required to safely administer chemotherapy.
If you are a new client to PCG, we encourage you to fill out our New Patient Registration Form that you will find on our website ahead of time online, or bring the form with you. Otherwise, please arrive to your appointment approximately 10 minutes early to complete this form in our office
Oncology consultation usually begins with a review of your pert’s history and previous diagnostics. Then our oncologist will perform a complete physical examination. After examination and complete review of the case, we will discuss with you our initial assessment, recommend any further diagnostics if needed and tailor a possible treatment plan for your pet.
Our oncologist will communicate with you during the work-up or treatment process to keep you informed on your pet’s progress. We will also communicate with your primary veterinarian during this process to ensure a collaborative treatment plan for the care of your pet. Upon discharge, you will be given a printed visit summary with the diagnosis, treatment recommendations, and follow up care. A full report will be sent to your family veterinarian the same day.
First and most importantly, bring your pet to all visits. You may be instructed to withhold food and water from midnight the night before your appointment to allow for certain diagnostic testing. If your pet is on any medications, please let us know and we will advise you whether to administer them on the morning of your appointment. Also, please bring a list of all medications, strengths and dosages, or the pill vials. Records, including recent laboratory work, can be faxed or emailed to us from your primary care veterinarian prior to the appointment. If your pet has had any x-rays taken recently, please bring those with you as well. We can request records and digital x-rays on your behalf from your family veterinarian once you have scheduled a visit with us.
Our specialist consultation fee is $130.00. After an assessment by our specialist, you will be provided with a detailed estimate of any diagnostic or treatment recommended for your pet.
While referrals are preferred, they are not required. It is always better to speak to your veterinarian about a referral so we can collaborate with your veterinarian to ensure the best care for your pet.
We work hand on hand with our referring veterinarians, they are an integral part of our success treating cancer. As an owner, you can always request that we do not communicate with them.
Our oncologist often sees pets that are suspected of having cancer even if a definitive diagnosis has not yet been made. Using imaging modalities, laboratory tests, physical exam findings and procedures we can determine if your pets clinical signs are resulting from cancer.
We are happy to offer drop off chemotherapy appointments if that works better for your schedule. We also have regularly scheduled appointment times and try to be accommodating of your schedules as much as possible.
Metronomic chemotherapy is a new way of dosing traditional chemotherapy in our patients for certain types of cancer. It consists of oral drugs compounded into VERY SMALL doses and given at home on a daily basis. The goal of this type of dosing is to target the blood vessels that supply blood and nutrients to the remaining tumor cells (these cells require blood supply and nutrients to regrow). This therapy has minimal side effects.