Q. What should I expect from a visit to macc?
A. If it is an initial consultation, this is generally a phone call which will be arranged through our support staff. You can add other people into the phone call or use speakerphone so other friends or family can participate in the consult. For in clinic appointments, macc will perform a complete and thorough physical examination on your animal. Based on these initial findings, additional tests and treatment options will be discussed. Depending on your pet’s condition; staging, diagnostic testing and management may include:
- Advanced laboratory testing of various blood or tissue samples
- Cytology, biopsies and tissue analysis
- Diagnostic Imaging – ultrasound, radiography (x-rays), CT scans, MRIs
- Discussion or arrangement for other cancer treatment modalities such as surgery or radiotherapy
Q. How do I make an appointment with macc?
A. We are a referral service, this means we are not a general practice and do not undertake general vet duties. Similar to the human field, we will require consultation notes, laboratory results and any testing which has been undertaken through your primary care clinic or other veterinary centres. Appointments can via phone on our in clinic days (generally Monday or Thursdays) or via email. Please refer your vet to this website if they are unfamiliar with macc.
Q. Can I feed my pet prior to their appointment?
A. If they are coming in for testing or imaging, food should be withheld from midnight the night before, water does not need to be restricted. If this a general treatment appointment, fasting is usually not required. If your pet has a medical condition where fasting is inappropriate, please contact macc or your veterinarian for advice.
Q. How long is a consultation?
A. Initial consultations usually last between 45 minutes to 1 hour. Chemotherapy treatments and revisits take 45 – 60 minutes. Any necessary diagnostic tests (i.e. ultrasound, biopsy) may be able to be performed that day, if so your pet may need to be in clinic longer.
Q. Will my pet get sick if treated with chemotherapy?
A. Pets, in general, will experience fewer and less severe side effects than humans. This is often due to lower doses and less intense dosing schedules used in pets. Generally speaking 80% of pets experience minimal to no side effects, up to 5% will have some side effects which may require hospitalisation, the risk of death is low at less than 0.5%. If side effects are seen, they are usually related to the gastrointestinal tract or blood counts. Stomach upset can manifest as vomiting, diarrhoea or decreased appetite. Most patients will experience these 3 – 5 days after treatment and most of these problems will resolve on their own. Hair loss is not commonly encountered in pets undergoing chemotherapy. This is because animals do not have the continually growing hair like humans. However, there are some breeds more susceptible to hair loss and many patients loose their whiskers and guard hairs. Shaved fur may regrow more slowly than normal. The side effects of the various treatment options will be discussed in detail at your initial consultation and handouts will be provided.
Q. What if I can’t afford treatment?
A. There are many options for treating cancer in your pet. Some treatments may be more costly and intensive than others, however there are often alternative options to suit your situation and we always discuss treatment plans directly with you before proceeding. Broadly speaking, there are no cancers that have no treatments.
Q. Am I being selfish if I treat my pet?
A. No. The main goal when treating cancer in pets is to improve or at least maintain a good quality of life and if this cannot be maintained at a reasonable level, often treatment is ceased and palliative care is pursued. macc will offer you advice in this regard as your pet’s treatment progresses over time.
Q. How do I know ‘when it’s time’?
A. This is a common question from pet owners, and the simple answer is that most people have such a strong bond with their pets that they will notice small changes and will be aware of “when it’s time”. This decision is very personal and it’s important to remember that there is no incorrect decision, only one that is right for you, your pet and your family.
However if you’re unsure and need some advice on signs to look for, consult your local veterinarian or your veterinary oncologist for guidance.
Quality of life is a subjective assessment but it can be judged in part by factors such as appetite, activity levels, grooming habits and performance of daily rituals (i.e. getting up to greet you when you arrive home). Some questions that may help in your decision making include:
- Do the bad days out number the good?
- Is your pet able to do the things that make him/her happy?
- How much does my pet’s day differ compared to before s/he was unwell?
Q. What should I tell my children?
A. This is a very personal topic and the answer will vary in each situation. Some studies have shown that excluding children or giving alternate explanations (i.e. “Puss ran away”) may be more negative in the long run. It is worth considering that children not be “sheltered” from this process and for parents to appreciate a child’s ability to comprehend the concept of death. macc can provide a handout regarding a reading list to cover this topic, as well your local library should be able to provide you with books that cover this topic.
Q. Can my pet receive vaccinations whilst being treated with chemotherapy?
A. Recent research indicates it is safe to vaccinate your pet while they are receiving chemotherapy. Although response to the vaccine may not be optimal, it appears that most pets respond normally and there is no increase in risk of adverse effects from the vaccine. We recommend waiting two months after chemotherapy to resume a vaccination schedule unless your pet is going into a high risk environment such as a cattery or kennels.
Flea and worming treatments can continue to be administered throughout treatment.