Your first job is to find the vet who is going to provide cancer treatment for your dog. It’s important to choose the right vet, but don’t take too long! Remember, while you are looking for a vet, the cancer is progressing.
Until the 1990s, there were no “veterinary oncologists” at all. This is because there was no such specialty in veterinary medicine. No vets were trained in giving cancer treatments to animals.
Today, there are about 390 veterinary oncologists in the U.S. If there are 390 specialists, and many thousands of dogs with cancer, obviously, not all of them are being treated by a veterinary oncologist!
Many General Practice veterinarians have become expert at giving cancer treatments, and center their practice around doing just that. Most cases do not require a veterinary oncologist. When General Practice vets giving cancer treatments encounter an unusual problem, they reach out to an oncologist for a consultation.
Here are some ideas to help you choose a vet to give your dog cancer treatment.
Find a Veterinarian
Find a clinic that is easy to get to. You many need to make many trips to the clinic! And if there is an emergency, you will want a clinic close by.
Fees vary wildly! The most expensive does not mean the best. Call clinics to compare prices. If they want a consult before giving an estimate, ask them for a range.
Experience is just as important as training. Ask how many times s/he has done this surgery or this chemo, especially if they are a “resident” or other non-specialist.
Are you willing to put your dog’s life in their hands? Find a vet who answers all of your questions, and who is very attentive to you and to your dog.
Is it difficult to make an appointment? This may seem like a sign that the vet is great, but don't give your dog's cancer another week to progress!
Why it's important to find a vet who has time
A message from Zen’s mom:
Zen made it through surgery wonderfully Tuesday and came home Tuesday night. Wednesday she was quiet, and spent most of the day sleeping with a decreased appetite, which we thought was was normal after the extensive surgery. Thursday, she was very sedated. We called the vet at 9am. They did not get back to us, so I called again at 11. They said they had several emergencies, but I pushed and got an appointment 4pm on Friday. The vet did not call us back as I had requested.
On Friday, they said that Zen was in full kidney failure! They thought she had an unknown old kidney injury, and the anesthesia plus stress of surgery caused the kidney failure.
Maybe if we were able to get her in on Wednesday right after surgery, they would have seen her… I keep going over the what ifs. I can hardly bear it.