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Treatment Question: Oncologist or Vet for Chemotherapy?

sami011208web.jpgWe just got a question from Sami’s Mom in L.A. She is looking for another vet and/or oncologist to help them get through Sami’s bone cancer battle. Michelle says they can’t decide who should administer chemo to Sami:

” . . . the other vet we checked out was really nice and a lot more compassionate. but he doesn’t have an oncologist on board, he administers the chemo himself. We are hesitant to use him because we have read it’s best to find an oncologist.

It seems, the oncologist we have doesn’t care about our dog, but may be more qualified. On the other hand, this vet seems to be a lot more caring about animals, but may not be as qualified.

Have you heard any stories from people that had a general practice vet administer the chemo?”

Do any of you have any experiences you can share with Michelle to help make her decision easier for Sammy?

Sharing is Caring!

11 thoughts on “Treatment Question: Oncologist or Vet for Chemotherapy?”

  1. The nearest oncologist is at least an hour away. With no current availability. I feel that with this particular diagnosis, my local vet can easily handle the surgery. I’m going to give him a call. UF is at least two hours one way but again availability is our curse. If I can get her into UF and have the local vet do continuing treatments, that would be the best of both worlds. I think I would be much more comfortable with the local vet.

  2. Michelle,

    I’m actually a new visitor to this website. I’m a veterinarian (a general practitioner, not an oncologist) that recently adopted a tripawd. Your question is not an easy one to answer. My practice does offer chemotherapy and we do have a board-certified oncologist in the area. We do all of our own chemo, but don’t hesitate to contact the local oncologist with any questions or concerns about our patients. My advice is to go with whom you feel the most comfortable with. In my opinion, compassion goes a long way, especially when you’re dealing with a pet with cancer. If your regular vet is as caring as you described, they should not hesitate to either refer you to a specialist if they feel that the case has surpassed their capabilites or to at least contact a specialist with questions.

    I’ve had too many people that I’ve referred to specialists come back and say they’d rather see me through the illness than deal with someone that doesn’t seem to care about their pet. By no means am I saying that all specialists don’t care, on the contrary, the vast majority I’ve dealt with are wonderful, caring people. But if you’re not completely comfortable with your oncologist’s bedside manner, I’d urge you to go elsewhere.

    Best of luck.


    • Ashley Thank you for posting this very important message for all of us who are struggling with “should I or shouldn’t I?

      My vet is very intelligent and not a specialist in the field of oncology. I will stay with him, follow his advice and love my guy right up to the last second.

      At 3 years old the possible diagnois of bone cancer was a shock to me. He wants to be with me all of his awake time. A bull mastive/border collie mix by DNA 168 pds. On antibiotics for a week to rule out other diseases that have similar symptoms to bone cancer.

      Your article gives me comfort in making the decision to go with my vet Dr. Turbeck In Oregon. A compassionate and very up to date vet.

  3. We have wonderful vets that we have used during this process. Our regular vet referred us to an oncologist for the chemo. They worked together very well, so many of my follow-up appts were through the normal vet who passed the info on to the specialist. That saved us some money, but we still got excellent care. And it was much less traumatizing for Cali and for me! If you can get your vets to work together, that would be my recommendation.

  4. Hi! I’m Ziggy! I’m a staffie who lives in Sacramento. I’m not sick but my mom is a vet, so I get to see a lot of sick dogs. I just thought I’d let you know a few things about the difference between a regular veterinarian and a veterinary oncologist.

    A regular veterinarian has completed 4 years of vet school for a DVM degree, and some of them may have done an additional year as an intern. An oncologist has also been to vet school for a DVM, but they have also done a year of internship and a 2 to 3 year residency where they train specifically in cancer diagnosis and treatment. Then they take a really hard test and get to put extra initials after their name.

    Whether you choose a regular vet or an oncologist for your chemo really depends on the vet and the oncologist! If your vet does not do chemo often, it may be better to go to someone more experienced. All chemo drugs need to be handled carefully, and some of them can do huge damage if any tiny bit of it leaks outside the vein. Different chemo drugs also have different idiosyncrasies in their side effects, and an oncologist will know more about these than your average vet.

    Some regular vets do chemotherapy often and are well equipped and experienced, while I’ve heard some other horror stories about vets who did not know what they were doing. An oncologist will be experienced, and their nurses and technicians will also be experienced because they do this all the time. If your regular vet also does this often, they may be just as good.

    So, in the end, you should make sure your vet is comfortable giving chemo and has done it before. Then go to whoever makes you most comfortable! Whoever is most compassionate and gentle and makes you feel like your pet is in good hands. I only would say don’t go to a regular vet for chemo if it’s something they rarely do or haven’t done before.

  5. thanks so much to rene, jim & jerry for posting this question on our behalf!

    we did one round of chemo with the oncologist last night and we are definitely through with her. she was horrible and rude and should not work with animals. or people for that matter!

    thanks to you guys for sharing your experiences and advice. our hearts go out to all of you. this is certainly one of the hardest things we’ve ever been through. everyone on here is an amazing person to love your dogs so much.

    stacey, i will definitely contact you for any referrals! you are too kind!

    thanks again!-michelle, stephen & sami

  6. I live in a small town, so my vet has administered the chemo but needed the oncologist to do the diagnosis and prescribe the chemical treatment. I moved to So Colorado from LA. My email is and I would love to be of any more assistance or recommendations for that area. I lived in the Valley and in Acton. I have gone to vets & specialists all over the County….so I am at your disposal. ~ Stacey

  7. I don’t know what is necessary to make a vet officially an oncologist. That said, Taylor gets his chemo at his regular vet…. but his regular vet handles a lot of cancer cases. I don’t believe he’s officially an oncologist, but he’s still damn good at keeping the cancer animals alive!

  8. That is a really tough call to make. Can you use both for portions that you feel more comfortable using them for? Maybe have the vet administer the chemo and do the tests and radiographs but send the results to the oncologists to double check.

    Chemo is really not that difficult to administer so I would think if the vet has done it before and had a good reference or two from patients he could give you that would be great. The only real concerns with chemo we had are that the blood work (CBC) shows that they are not having any liver/kidney problems and that they administer the drugs slow enough (30-60 minutes for IV injections) to not cause injury.

    I felt more comfortable with an oncologist office doing Timber’s chemo (The vet techs actually administer the injections NOT the oncologist). You may want to check and see if the actual oncologist even does the chemo themselves.
    But, I really felt they were not as caring and come to find out they gave an all clear after her chemo (but I had no idea they only checked the lungs & 1 month after this good news we had to put her to sleep for a mass in her vertebrate that caused her to lose function in her hind legs).

    No matter who you go with, I would insist on seeing the results of the blood work and insisting on them doing very thorough whole body radiographs, I would get a second opinion on things if you can.

    If you find a good compassionate vet I would go with them. Compassionate care is hard to find.

  9. Best wishes to Sami!

    Had we decided to take the chemo route, our vets would have administered the chemo, for which they had been qualified abroad.


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