CHESAPEAKE, Va. — A cancer diagnosis in your pet can be absolutely devastating, especially when they aren’t able to tell us they’re sick. Fortunately, veterinary oncology has been taking leaps and bounds in improving the prognosis of animals diagnosed with cancer.
We visited with Dr. William Brewer, a board-certified veterinary oncologist at Blue Pearl in Chesapeake, to talk with him about these types of diagnoses.
“The two things you want to know is what it is and where it is and you can make a better plan for what you have to do for treatment,” Dr. Brewer said.
What is the plan of attack after you suspect your pet is suffering from cancer?
“A complete physical exam to look at them, perhaps radiographs to look in the lungs to see if it has spread or not, ultrasounds to see if it has spread there or not and all this depends on the tumor type and then a biopsy or a sampling of the tumor so you know what type it is and then you can predict what it's going to do and what treatments we have that will alter that course,” Dr. Brewer explained.
Dr. Brewer says that cancer in animals is becoming increasingly more common and he attributes this simply to dogs living longer than they used to due to better veterinary care.
Melanoma is one of the most common cancers found in dogs, recently huge progress has been made in their treatment.
“It used to be that all we had was cutting them out, we tried numerous other drugs on them, and we didn’t do very well," Dr. Brewer remarked.
Now Dr. Brewer tells us there is a vaccine for melanoma that increases the survival rate.
“It has taken a median survival rate with surgery alone of four months to a median survival of 18 months,” he said.
The vaccine also means lower effects on your dog, different from chemotherapy.
No case is exactly like any other. Each dog is unique. Treatments will be determined case by case. Dr. Brewer is excited about other advances made with drugs developed for other tumors that actually have shown to be effective in more types than what it was originally designed for.
He also tells us there are many more treatments in the pipeline that are very promising.