2016 AAHA Oncology Guidelines for Dogs and Cats

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From Diagnosis to Dialogue: A Roadmap for Comprehensive Cancer Care

Cancer in beloved pets is a far-too-common scenario presented in veterinary practices, and it’s crucial for the veterinary team to be prepared for these cases where complex medicine and compassion intersect. All companion animal practices are presented with oncology cases regularly, making diagnosis and treatment of cancer an essential part of comprehensive primary care. The AAHA Oncology Guidelines for Dogs and Cats support veterinary professionals in the journey from diagnosis to treatment and beyond with their patients.

Because each oncology case is medically unique, a patient-specific approach consisting of the following components:

  • Diagnosis
  • Staging
  • Therapeutic intervention
  • Provisions for patient and personnel safety in handling chemotherapy agents
  • Referral to an oncology specialty practice when appropriate
  • A strong emphasis on client support

Key points:

  • Determination of tumor type by histologic examination of a biopsy sample should be the basis for all subsequent steps in oncology case management.
  • Diagnostic staging determines the extent of local disease and presence or absence of regional or distant metastasis.
  • The choice of therapeutic modalities is based on tumor type, histologic grade, and stage, and may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and adjunctive therapies, such as nutritional support and pain management.
  • These guidelines discuss the strict safety precautions that should be observed in handling chemotherapy agents, which are now commonly used in veterinary oncology.
  • Because cancer is often a disease of older pets—the time of life when the pet–owner relationship is usually strongest—good communication between the entire healthcare team and the client is paramount, particularly when euthanasia of the patient is being considered.
  • These guidelines include comprehensive tables of common canine and feline cancers as a resource for case management and a sample case history.

The 2016 AAHA Oncology Guidelines prioritizes precise diagnostics, multimodal treatment approaches, and proactive pain management to provide a robust framework for enhancing the quality of life for pets facing the challenges of cancer. The emphasis on client communication, ethical considerations, and continuing education ensures that veterinary professionals are well-equipped to address the needs of their oncology patients with compassion and expertise.

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