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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Oncology and Beyond

Updated: December 26th, 2018

I have been getting some questions lately about whether or not I am a board-certified oncologist.  Nope, and I do not try to be either.  Here’s why:

Oncology is our word for the field of cancer medicine.  Oncologists spend a good amount of time doing chemo, and have broader interests usually  within the additional areas of  radiation, a little nutrition, and surgery.

These are the areas that our current education system focuses on in this country.  Unfortunately, our success rates with cancer in the dog, versus most other areas of medicine, are low in comparison.



For example, our educational system teaches how to deal with a broken bone pretty well.  Most times the techniques we learn in school, or at conferences, yield a fixed bone. The dog ends up happy and pain-free.  Say, 90-95% of the time, just a rough estimate.

Similarly, we do quite well managing infections.  We treat diabetes pretty effectively.  We remove urinary stones well and can suppress allergic reactions most times.

However, in cancer, we do very poorly in many cases.  If you compare our success rates of fixing fractures with fixing cancer, you will see a tremendous difference.

While I guess 90-95% of fractures can be fixed, the median survival time for most systemic cancers is not more than roughly 6 months, then we often lose our patients…with conventional veterinary care.


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The branch of conventional veterinary care that deals with fixing bones is orthopedics.  The branch of conventional veterinary care that deals with fixing cancer is oncology.

So if we compare 90-95% of all dogs with broken bones end up happy (an approximation of orthopedic success with broken bones) with only 6 months of life (then we lose the patient), the success rates are startlingly different.

Compare the successes of conventional cancer care (oncology) with conventional veterinary care in many other areas of animal illness, and you will find this amazing difference in success rates.

Oncology success rates would likely be intolerable to most dog lovers  in most other areas of veterinary medicine.

However, we have grown accustomed to these success rates, and they are now accepted as “normal” in cancer care.


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I am not really enthused by the success rates of  conventional oncology at this moment in time.  I have a strong interest and dedication, though, in dog cancer. Looking for something “outside the box” does excite me!

NOTE: it is not my intention to disparage oncology or oncologists.  Cancer management is much better than it used to be, and every oncologist out there is working, and succeeding,  to help relieve the suffering of thousands of  dogs.  They are skilled clinicians and caring practitioners.

My interest is to look beyond chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.  In this way, perhaps we can gain higher margins on our successes in caring for dogs afflicted with this horrid disease.  That is why I titled the book “The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, Beyond Surgery, Chemotherapy and Radiation.”

Best,

Dr D


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