Tips for discussing pet cancer treatment options

Are you prepared to discuss all pet cancer treatment options with your veterinary clients when you diagnose a malignancy in one of your patients? The better informed your practice’s pet-owners are, the better decisions they will be able to make for their animals companions. That’s especially true for those clients who have pet health insurance, and can make the best decisions without as much thought for the financial ramifications.

As we near the end of National Pet Cancer Awareness Month and Nationwide’s #CurePetCancer2017 fund-raising campaign, I though this was a good time to review some of the newest options for treatment.

Here are two options to discuss with pet owners. These are part of a multimodal approach, along with chemotherapy and palliative or traditional radiation therapy:


Using a body’s own immune system to help fight cancer can take on different forms, and it’s helpful to have help explaining them to the lay person. Here’s how I explain the main types of immunotherapy now being used to treat cancer in animals:

  • Monoclonal antibodies: Man-made versions of immune system proteins. Antibodies can be very useful in treating cancer because they can be designed to attack a very specific part of a cancer cell.
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors: These drugs basically take the “brakes” off the immune system, which helps it recognize and attack cancer cells.
  • Cancer vaccines: Vaccines are substances put into the body to trigger an immune response against certain diseases. We usually think of them as being given to healthy people to help prevent infections, but some vaccines can help prevent or treat cancer.
  • Other, non-specific immunotherapies: These treatments boost the immune system in general ways, but can still help the immune system attack cancer cells.

Stereotactic radiation (SRS/SRT)

Neal_Mauldin1An advanced form of radiation therapy that has long been the treatment of choice for a variety of tough to treat cancers in humans SRS/SRT is just now making its way into veterinary medicine.  According to the chief medical officer of PetCure Oncology, Neal Mauldin DVM, Dip. ACVIM, Dip. ACVR, there are several advantages to SRS/SRT that you can share with your clients:

  •  Fewer treatments: SRS/SRT requires only 1-3 non-invasive treatments, representing an 80-95% reduction in treatment sessions compared to traditional forms of radiation therapy.
  • Reduced anesthetic risk: Fewer treatment sessions combined with new technology that delivers radiation faster and more accurately means less risk for the pet and a faster recovery
  • Greater precision: New technology and advanced equipment allow for the tumor to be targeted with submillimeter accuracy, sparing nearby healthy tissue. More types of cancer can be treated with SRS/SRT, including some forms previously considered “untreatable” based on their sensitive locations within the body.
  • Fewer side effects: Because of the ability to target the tumor precisely, there is an overall low risk of side effects associated with SRS/SRT

These advances are of course  just the beginning, as ongoing research and clinical studies are helping both pets and people in an arena where the One Health movement is vital. So, too, is a good relationship between primary-care veterinarians and specialists, as well as pet health insurance companies like Nationwide that routinely cover all levels of care.

While you’re thinking about how you can use this information to keep your clients informed, why not help us raise some money?

Members of the veterinary community can join pet-lovers everywhere by helping to raise $50,000 in November. All you need to do is use the hashtag #CurePetCancer2017 on your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account. Yes, it’s just that easy!

2 thoughts on “Tips for discussing pet cancer treatment options

  1. Can pet insurance be purchased for “Shelter Dogs”? In many cases these dogs were “strays” and their backgrounds are unknown.

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