Cancer Care at VSA

ADVANCED CANCER CARE FOR YOUR PETS

VSA's multi-disciplinary approach to cancer treatment

At VSA, our main goal is to preserve, lengthen, and improve the quality of life for our patients that have been diagnosed with cancer.

We offer a wide variety of treatment options that are customised to meet the needs and goals of the individual patient and their family.  

Here at VSA, we are fortunate enough to be able to offer our patients a multi-disciplinary approach to cancer treatment. This means that whatever the treatment plan, we are able to utilise the skills of our team of specialists and nursing staff to get the best outcome for your pet. 

We understand that a cancer diagnosis can be devastating, creating lots of questions and leading to some difficult decisions. Our experienced team will help to guide you through the various stages of diagnosis, surgery and ongoing treatment, enabling you to make the best decisions for your family. 

Some of the cancers that we see are- 

  • Soft Tissue Cancer 
  • Abdominal Tumours- Liver, Spleen, Adrenal
  • Lymphoma
  • Brain Tumours
  • Head/ Skull Tumours- nasal and oral 
  • Bone Cancers- Osteosarcoma
  • Skin Cancers- Squamous Cell Carcinoma, Mast Cell Tumours,  Melanoma 
  • Benign tumours- lipomas, sebaceous cysts, papillomas, histiocytomas 

What does VSA Cancer Care offer?

Diagnostic Imaging

Diagnostic Imaging plays an important part in showing us the size of a tumour, where it is and what other areas are involved.

Generally your pet will need at least one form of diagnostic imaging before a treatment plan is discussed.  At VSA we are able to offer Ultrasounds, X-rays, CT Scans and MRIs. 

Diagnostics

Most of the time we will need to run additional diagnostics to make sure we have as much information as possible. We will use this information to determine the best treatment plan for your pet. Some of these extra diagnostics include, blood tests, biopsies and FNA’s, fine needle aspiration.

All blood and tissue samples are assessed by veterinary pathologists at the laboratory.  

Instruments

Surgery

Surgery is often an important part in many of our VSA Cancer Care patient’s journey. 

Not only is surgery used to remove tumours, but in some cases it is also used to take biopsies of specific tissue that is difficult to reach any other way.

a specialist veterinary nurse prepares for chemotherapy treatment in a dog

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer using drugs which target cancer cells. At VSA we either administer drugs orally, intravenously (into the vein via a catheter) or subcutaneously (an injection under the skin).

Because every cancer is different, treatment plans and chemotherapy drugs vary between patients. 

Radiation marker

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is a form of cancer treatment that is most helpful for tumors with a low rate of metastasis (spread to other organs) that are confined to one area of the body.

Our VSA Cancer Care team work closely with a Veterinary Radiation Oncologist to construct the radiation treatment plan for your pet. 

Recovery

Our dedicated and compassionate nursing team work hard to provide your pet with the highest quality of care.

Whether they are recovering from surgery, being admitted for a diagnostic work-up or having a chemo treatment our nursing team is there every step of the way for you pet. 

Diagnostic Imaging

The most important thing we can do with any VSA Cancer Care patient is to work up a treatment plan that individually suits them and their family.  To do this we need to have an accurate diagnosis and an understanding of the degree in which the cancer has progressed or spread.

This is where our Imaging Department comes in. During your pet’s initial consult with one of our specialist surgeons or internal medicine specialists they may recommend the need to do further imaging such as an ultrasound, CT or MRI even if you pet has already had radiographs or an ultrasound at your general practice clinic.

This form of imaging is known as “staging”. Staging helps us determine the size of a tumour and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, known as metastases.  

Our radiologists are experts in the interpretation of all imaging modalities, from X-rays, ultrasounds, CT and MRI. They are also able to safely obtain tissue samples by FNA and biopsies with either ultrasound or CT guidance.

Surgery

Depending on the type and location of your pet’s cancer/tumour, surgical intervention may be recommended to provide patients with an improved quality of life.

Different types of oncologic surgery include

Diagnostic– This is where surgery is used to remove tissue for a biopsy. The tissue is then sent to the laboratory where veterinary pathologists are able to give our team an accurate diagnosis on the type of cancer we are dealing with.

Curative– This is where the surgeon’s intent is to remove cancerous tissue or tumours with wide margins, with no cancer left behind. In many cases these patients would then be internally referred for chemotherapy.

Cytoreductive– This is when we know we can’t completely remove a tumour. The goal with cytoreduction is to “debulk” a tumour enough to decrease the burden of the tumour on the patient’s body. This also helps to enhance the response to additional chemotherapy or radiation treatments. 

Palliative–  In some cases of cancer we cannot provide a cure. However, there are surgical procedures that can be used to improve the quality of life for some patients.

Chemotherapy

Animal Chemotherapy is similar to human therapy, but the drugs are used at a lower dosage rate which results in reduced side effects. Chemotherapy typically follows diagnostic and/or surgical processes in your animals’ Cancer Care journey. Chemotherapy drugs are mostly given intravenously (as an injection into your pet’s vein). This requires your animal to have a day-stay in hospital for each treatment, depending on their individual treatment plan. 

The length of time and frequency of the treatment for your pet will depend on many factors, including the type of cancer being treated and how well the treatment is tolerated by the patient. Treatment may be weekly or monthly. There may also be rest periods where no treatment is given, allowing the animal time to build healthy new cells. 

Your pet will receive an individualised chemotherapy plan which is formulated to achieve the best outcomes for your pet but avoid adverse effects as far as practical.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation Therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumours by damaging their DNA.

Types of Radiation Therapy:
• SRT: Also commonly referred to as SRS (stereotactic radiosurgery),
GammaKnife® or CyberKnife® treatment. Uses accurate and precise techniques
to deliver high doses of radiation to a tumour in a very short period.
• pRT: A low intensity treatment that is not intended to provide as good a longterm prognosis as SRT but is very effective at improving comfort.

Side Effects of Radiation Therapy:
• After either pRT or SRT, some dogs will have hair loss and change in coat colour
in the area directly surrounding the tumour.
• More severe side effects are uncommon but can include skin ulcers with
subsequent infections that develop months after SRT.

Follow-up after Radiation Therapy:

· pRT: We usually recommend a recheck exam 2 and 4 weeks after pRT. You can also consider combining pRT and/or chemotherapy. The pain-relief from pRT is not permanent, but if needed, the treatment can be repeated.

· SRT: Your pet may have the possibility of requiring chemotherapy after radiation therapy. Frequent recheck exams will be needed for possible bloodwork and follow-up for the tumour (X-rays and or CT of the limb and chest, performed every few months).

How to make an appointment for pet cancer treatment?

If your pet has had a cancer diagnosis, or you are concerned about their health, the first port of call is always with your local vet.

We work with veterinary clinics around New Zealand to provide specialist care, and our VSA Cancer Care service is part of this. Our cancer care patients all start with a referral from their local vet which you can request by talking to them. 

If you would like more info, or help getting referred, please contact us below.

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