The oncology field in veterinary medicine is growing and research contributes to discovering new treatments. The research done on animals can also relate to humans, especially in children. Dogs and children both spontaneously acquire numerous types of cancers with notable similarities. In this One Health aspect, we can use our veterinary patient models to hopefully learn more about cancer in both pediatric and canine patients, and progress to better treatment options.
Treatment is something that doesn’t always come to mind when thinking about our pets with cancer. Sometimes it can feel like a death sentence, but a cancer diagnosis doesn’t always have that indication. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. I would like to discuss further the option of radiation.
At my university, Iowa State, a state-of-the-art veterinary radiation facility was recently opened, which has seen several patients already including a rat! Radiation therapy offers patients a non-surgical and non-invasive option for the treatment of multiple tumor types. The most common tumors include oral, nasal, brain, spinal cord, skin, anal sac, and bone tumors. The facility also offers stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT) which is a much more precise treatment. It is useful for tumors that are solid and cannot be removed surgically. It conveys a high dose of radiation to a concentrated area and its ability to accurately treat the direct area is beneficial to the patient by decreasing the need for more treatments (from 20 treatments, down to 1 to 4!).
To see such advanced techniques being used on our pets is inspiring and it shows the importance of the human-animal bond, no matter the species, and indeed I can see how strong it can be.