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Veterinary oncology: the importance of comprehensive care

Atlantic City

Comprehensive care plays a vital role in ensuring pets and pet parents feel comfortable during treatment.

Content sponsored by Epicur Pharma®

“It is paramount to have the right dosages in veterinary oncology, but providing comprehensive care is [also] very important. It’s so much more than those doses,” said Renee Alsarraf, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology), during the recent Fetch dvm360 conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey.1

In the field of veterinary oncology, the industry’s first focus is currently to work toward improving the patient’s health or survivability. Alsarraf believes there should be just as much emphasis on the pet and pet parents’ emotional wellbeing.

The pet’s response

Even with access to the best care, there is no way to guarantee that a pet won’t have a nervous response when brought into the clinic. Such anxiety can negatively impact the patient’s quality of life, even if their physical health improves. “[Comprehensive care] is taking care of that pet and taking care of that pet’s family,” said Alsarraf. “When you add all of these different factors in, it makes for the best in veterinary care.” Compassion is often stressed in this industry, as these animals are a part of their families, and the goal is to treat them accordingly.

The family response

As their pets undergo diagnosis and treatment, families may share the animals’ nervousness and anticipation, which animals can sense. “Dogs can’t speak our language, and yet they know exactly what we’re thinking,” Alsarraf added. Although there is already a lot of emphasis on the human-animal bond, the importance of this bond during cancer treatment cannot be overstated. Alsarraf mentioned that “honoring the family dynamic” helps provide each family with the level of comfort they need.

Financially, treating cancer is not easy for most pet parents. It’s imperative that practitioners are transparent during diagnosis and treatment, as pets are not the same as people and, therefore, the effect of cancer is not the same. Additionally, treatment protocols can be exhausting for pets and families alike, which is why compounding medications is often recommended in oncology. “Compounding medication makes a big difference in compliance for that pet parent to be able to administer that medication [and] for that pet to get that right medication,” Alsarraf said. “When you are more compliant, then you will have better outcomes.”


  1. Alsarraf, R. Sit, Stay, Heal: A Comprehensive Approach to the Cancer Patient. Presented at: Fetch dvm360® Conference; Atlantic City, New Jersey. October 9-11, 2023.
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