WestVet offers several treatment options for your beloved pet including Surgery, Radiation, and Chemotherapy with Idaho’s only Veterinary Oncologist, Dr. Carrie Hume.

November has been designated as National Pet Cancer Awareness Month. The goal is to educate pet owners about the prevalence, detection, and treatment of cancer. Not only does WestVet provide a full spectrum of treatments for pets suffering from cancer, we are pleased to offer the services of Dr. Carrie Hume, Idaho’s first Veterinary Oncologist.

Detecting cancer in your pet. The first line of defense for pet owners is regular, routine veterinary care.

According to Dr. Hume, an annual exam offers a regular opportunity to evaluate your pet for cancer.Dr. Carrie Hume is Idaho's first Veterinary Oncologist at WestVet's Animal Cancer Treatment Center “Veterinarians give full physical examinations,” Dr. Hume said. “They listen to the heart and lungs, look for new lumps or bumps, feel and evaluate the lymph nodes, touch the belly for signs of pain or tumors, and evaluate muscle or bone pain. Any abnormalities can be further investigated to look for evidence of cancer.”

If your family veterinarian suspects cancer, you may be referred for advanced oncology care to WestVet. At our Animal Cancer Treatment Center Dr. Hume routinely performs additional diagnostic tests that can quickly confirm the diagnosis and severity of the disease.

For internal tumors or those outside of the body, a needle can be used to withdraw cells for analysis. Internal cancers can be visualized with the use of x-rays, ultrasound, CT, or MRI scans. Blood and urine analysis assess organ function and provide a look at cancerous cells that may be circulating in the blood. The team of veterinary specialists, including the WestVet Diagnostic Laboratory Pathologists, will work with Dr. Hume to pinpoint the disease.

“The test results can determine the extent, or stage, of cancer,” Dr. Hume said. “The stage then dictates treatment options and provides more specific information regarding how quickly the cancer is expected to progress.”

Common signs and symptoms. Similar to human medicine, the earlier cancer is detected—the better the chance of effective treatment. A few indications of cancer include, but are not limited to:

  • Lumps that grow quickly
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Sudden weakness
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent lameness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Dr. Hume noted that while any animal may develop cancer, there are some specific breeds and types of cancers to be aware of:

  • Lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, and mast cell tumors; common in Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers.
  • Histiocytic Sarcoma; common in Bernese Mountain Dogs and Flat Coated Retrievers.
  • Bone tumors; common in Greyhounds, Great Danes, and Rottweilers.

Dr. Hume noted that one of the best ways to prevent mammary cancer in female dogs and cats is to have them spayed before their first heat. She says this simple action decreases the risk tremendously.

After a cancer diagnosis in your pet. Once diagnosis and testing are complete, there are numerous factors to consider when determining the best course of treatment. Choosing whether or not to treat a pet’s cancer is a personal, and often, a very difficult decision. A consultation with a veterinary oncologist can help determine the best plan for your family.

Treatment options include medication, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.  Frequently, a combination of treatments offers the best outcome. However, sometimes, the recommendation is to not pursue treatment as some types of animal cancers cannot be cured or even put in remission for a significant amount of time.

Overall, the goal is to make an animal feel better for as long as possible. “Regardless of the recommended treatment, my job as a veterinary oncologist is to keep my patients happy. Therefore, aggressive cancer treatment protocols that have a high risk of significant side effects are often avoided,” said Dr. Hume. “In addition to helping owners choose the right path for their family, my job is to help them recognize suffering and when bad days outnumber the good days. Regardless of the decisions made, early diagnosis and a trusting, open relationship with a veterinarian can make this difficult time easier.”

Pet Cancer Awareness Month. In 2005, Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI) partnered with the Animal Cancer Foundation to launch November as Pet Cancer Awareness Month.

In 2012, VPI processed more than 55,000 claims for cancer diagnosis and treatments in pets. This puts cancer-related conditions collectively as one of the most common types of medical claims received.

If you have questions about WestVet’s Animal Cancer Treatment Center, ask your family veterinarian for a referral or contact us at 208.375.1600. 

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