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LAKEWOOD, CO/GERMANTOWN, MD (April 7, 2016) – In support of the seventh annual “Pet Cancer Awareness Month,” recognized in May 2016 by several pet organizations, VetSpecialists.com is encouraging pet owners to learn more about pet cancer, its symptoms and treatment. Navigating a cancer diagnosis can be a frightening time for a pet owner, and it is important and helpful to have access to information. VetSpecialists.com hopes to empower pet owners with online resources about common canine and feline cancers and courses of action, which can help foster conversations about cancer between pet owners and their primary care veterinarians.

“Cancer treatment involves a lot of communication between what we refer to as the ‘triad of care’ – the pet parent, the primary care veterinarian, and the specialist,” says Gerald Post, DVM, MEM, DACVIM (Oncology), practice owner of The Veterinary Cancer Center located in Connecticut and Long Island, which is one of the organizations that sponsors Pet Cancer Awareness Month in May. “For example, the pet parent needs to be aware of any unusual lumps or bumps a pet may have, the primary care veterinarian will aspirate those bumps to find out if they are cancerous or benign, and the specialist will develop a tailored treatment plan for that individual pet patient, based on the information received from the owner and primary care veterinarian.”

According to a recent survey, 63 percent of pet owners were not aware that veterinary speciality medicine even existed. Due to those statistics, the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) and the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) launched VetSpecialists.com as part of a joint national awareness campaign to educate the public about veterinary specialty medicine. The website is a valuable resource to owners of small and large animals.

“In human healthcare, it is important to see a specialist upon a diagnosis of cancer, and the same concept holds true for pet owners and their pets,” explains Sue Ettinger, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology), who practices at Animal Specialty & Emergency Center in the Hudson Valley of New York. “A board certified veterinary oncologist brings expertise to the situation, and can provide the pet owner and the primary care veterinarian with a plan of treatment options and anticipated outcomes.”

As described on VetSpecialists.com, the pet owner’s primary care veterinarian plays a crucial role in the cancer treatment process. “If a team approach is what is best for a pet, then I see the primary care veterinarian as the quarterback,” says Dr. Post. “The primary care veterinarian knows that patient and the owner. In many cases, the primary care veterinarian may have cared for the pet as a puppy or a kitten. To formulate the best plan for the pet and the owner, it’s essential that the primary care veterinarian is involved early on and frequently during the treatment and follow-up process.”

Dr. Ettinger adds, “It’s the primary care veterinarians who are on the frontlines. They can provide early detection and preventative care. We are all on the same team, including the pet owner. I believe, if you ‘See Something, Do Something. Why Wait? Aspirate®.’ We want pet owners to be proactive in detecting any suspicious lumps on their pets and we want those pet owners to see their primary care veterinarians as early as possible for an aspirate. If the mass is the size of a pea and is there for one month, I recommend going to the primary care veterinarian for a simple test. No one, not even me as a cancer specialist, can look at a mass and know if it is cancer or not.”

Dr. Post adds that pet parent education and even just discussing cancer in pets more openly will help raise awareness of the disease and new treatment options. “We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it. Cancer therapies in pets are very effective if the cancer is caught early enough.”

Dr. Ettinger agrees. “The earlier we diagnose cancer in pets, the more treatment options are available and the less expensive the overall treatment will be. It’s important to note that pets handle cancer treatment very well, much better than their human counterparts. Eighty to ninety percent don’t have any side effects of chemotherapy and the other 10 to 20 percent usually have very mild symptoms. Seeing how a pet responds to treatment and therapy, be it surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and/or oral therapy, allows us as the specialists to adjust the protocol based on those side effects.”

“Pets frequently recover more rapidly and are home with their owners more quickly than would be expected following surgery,” adds Nicole Ehrhart, VMD, MS, DACVS, a surgical oncologist at The Flint Animal Cancer Center, Colorado State University. “If the veterinary oncologist deems a pet a candidate for surgery, the surgical oncologist will discuss potential benefits, risks, and costs of treatment, as well as alternatives to surgery in some cases.”

All three specialists agree that there are many new, effective treatment options on the horizon for pets and that pet parents shouldn’t assume that the treatment options will be too aggressive. “Our goal is to provide a quality of life that wouldn’t be possible without treatment,” says Dr. Ehrhart. “Pet owners are often surprised at the number of options available that will provide an excellent quality of life. We don’t want the treatment to be worse than the disease.”

Dr. Post adds, “Age is not a disease. An animal’s age, be it 10 or 17, does not mean that animal shouldn’t be treated. We look at many factors before making a recommendation. The point of Pet Cancer Awareness month in May is to empower pet parents with knowledge, so that they realize that cancer is not an automatic death sentence for their pets.”

Pet parents can find specialists like Dr. Post, Dr. Ettinger, and Dr. Ehrhart across the country through location searches on the VetSpecialists.com directory. For more information about VetSpecialists.com, Pet Cancer Awareness, or to speak to any of the above specialists, please contact Shannon Stevens, Fetching Communications at 631.569.2285 or Shannon.stevens@fetchingcommunications.com.

About VetSpecialists.com
VetSpecialists.com was developed in 2015 as a partnership between the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) and the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) to provide education about diseases and conditions affecting animals and to increase awareness of veterinary specialty medicine to the animal owning community. To find a veterinary specialist, please use the Search for a Veterinary Specialist Tool powered by VetSpecialists.com.

About Pet Cancer Awareness Month
2016 marks the seventh annual recognition of “Pet Cancer Awareness Month” in May, sponsored by The Blue Buffalo Foundation for Cancer Research, in conjunction with The Veterinary Cancer Center, The Petco Foundation, and Morris Animal Foundation. For more information, visit www.petcancerawareness.org.

About the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM)
The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of animals and people through education, training and certification of specialists in veterinary internal medicine, discovery and dissemination of new medical knowledge, and increasing public awareness of advances in veterinary medical care. The ACVIM is the certifying organization for veterinary specialists in cardiology, large animal internal medicine, neurology, oncology and small animal internal medicine. For more information, visit http://ACVIM.org.

About the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS)
The American College of Veterinary Surgeons is the specialty board that sets the standards for advanced professionalism in veterinary surgery. ACVS defines the standards of surgical excellence for the profession, promotes advancements in veterinary surgery, and provides the latest in surgical educational programs. By fostering these standards, ACVS is helping the veterinary profession achieve its goals of providing outstanding service to the public and care to animals. The ACVS established a certifying process to qualify veterinarians as specialists in large animal surgery and small animal surgery. For more information, visit http://ACVS.org.

Recognized Veterinary Specialties
The ACVIM and ACVS are recognized veterinary specialty organizations by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s American Board of Veterinary Specialties (ABVS). ABVS recognizes more than 20 different veterinary specialty colleges.

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Media Contact:
Shannon Stevens, Fetching Communications
Shannon.stevens@fetchingcommunications.com
631.569.2285

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