Client FAQ

Do I need a referral to come see the Oncologists at Texas A&M VMTH?

Yes. Your pet must be referred to us by your primary veterinarian. Your primary veterinarian can do a physical exam and initial testing that will determine if a referral is necessary. If so, the veterinarian will contact us with referral information and an appointment can be made.

What should I do to prepare for my appointment?

Please bring any records including radiographs, lab results, and copies of your pet’s chart. This will help us determine what diagnostics your pet still needs. We ask that you withhold food from your pet for 12 hrs prior to the appointment time. Many diagnostics are more accurate if the patient has an empty stomach. If any sedation is necessary, it will also lower the risk of complications.

What should I expect for my initial appointment?

Upon arriving to the hospital, you and your pet will be taken into an exam room where a thorough history will be taken and the pet’s physical will be performed by the 4th year veterinary student assigned to the case. The student will then leave you and your pet in the exam room while he/she goes over the information you provided with the clinician. They will both return to the room and go over the options with you and answer any questions you may have. Many diagnostics and treatment can be done that same day. It could take an entire business day to have initial testing and treatment completed. We recommend bringing a book or some form of entertainment. You are also welcome to leave the building while we are running tests and/or treating your pet.

Can my pet’s cancer be spread to me or my other pets?

Animals with cancer pose no risk to humans. Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a virus fairly common in feral cats and cats that associate with them. FeLV can be transmitted to other cats via saliva and can lead to lymphoma. The only known contagious, virally-induced cancer in dogs is the papillomavirus. Multiple, small, cauliflower-like growths may occur in the mouth or on the skin 4-8 months after exposure.

What treatment options are available for cancer?

Texas A&M Oncology has several different treatment options for cancer. These options greatly depend on the type of cancer and where it is located. Various combinations of therapies including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and immunotherapy can be used to achieve control of malignancies. After diagnosing and staging your pet we will discuss the options available and a treatment decision can be made.

What is radiation therapy?

Many tumors of the dog and cat have been shown to be controllable, if not curable, by the use of radiation. Radiation will injure/kill tumor cells so that they cannot divide again, making it impossible for the tumor to continue to grow. Radiation damages both tumor cells and normal cells, but the normal cells are usually able to repair themselves. With our new tomotherapy unit, we are able to irradiate tumors with the highest precision available thus limiting the damage to healthy cells.

What are the side effects of radiation therapy (RT)?

The side effects of radiation are localized to the area being treated. These could include skin irritation, redness, hair loss, or change in the skin or hair color. In almost all cases, the effects of radiation therapy will not be serious and healing of the inflamed tissue typically will have occurred within 3-4 weeks after the treatment is completed.

What are the side effects of chemotherapy?

In dogs and cats, we generally do not expect the same severity of side effects as seen in humans. Chemotherapeutic drugs are targeted to kill tumor cells, which generally divide more rapidly than normal cells. However, some normal cells in the body also divide rapidly (Blood cells, gastrointestinal cells, hair follicle cells) and therefore they can also be damaged. Other drugs may cause specific damage to particular organs, such as the heart, liver or kidneys. Side effects differ for each chemotherapy drug and vary with each patient- but stomach upset, blood abnormalities, or hair loss could be seen.

What are the steps in the workup of a patient expected to have cancer?

One of our first objectives is to identify all the problems with your pet. We want to know if there are any other health issues that could affect the treatment and outcome of the cancer diagnosis. Second, we want to decide exactly what type of cancer your pet has. Lastly, we want to know the extent of the disease; this is called staging. In order to accomplish all of this our diagnostics could include bloodwork, urinalysis, radiographs, ultrasound, aspirates of the mass/lymph nodes and/or surgery to obtain a biopsy.

What is my pet’s prognosis?

We typically depend on statistics to help determine your pet’s prognosis. However, they can’t be used to predict exactly what will happen with your pet, because no two patients are alike. Each patient is unique, and each cancer that develops is also unique. Further, different treatment options may be associated with different prognoses. Each pet owner must decide what option is best for his or her pet. When a cure is not possible, our goal is to preserve good quality of life for as long as we can.