If your pet has cancer, BluePearl pet hospital in North Seattle offers new treatments using advanced technology. Hearing a cancer diagnosis is scary, but our experienced team wants you to know there can be hope. For some pets, a cure may be possible. For others, options such as radiation therapy may offer your pet improved quality of life so that you can enjoy more time together. At BluePearl, we answer all your questions with compassion, and we treat our patients with the same care we would want for our own pets.
Our highly skilled radiation oncology team is led by Dr. Karri Meleo, an experienced veterinarian who is board-certified in both medical and radiation oncology.
Radiation therapy can be used as the sole treatment for your pet’s cancer or as part of a more complex treatment plan. Our North Seattle hospital is equipped with Western Washington’s only dedicated veterinary linear accelerator, an advanced piece of medical equipment that is used to deliver radiation therapy. New technologies allow us to treat pets while minimizing side effects.
We are dedicated to working with you as a pet parent as well as your primary care veterinarian to help each patient have the best outcome possible.
Custom treatment for your pet
Radiation therapy works by killing rapidly dividing cells such as cancer cells. A beam of X-rays or electrons, generated by the linear accelerator, is used to attack cancerous cells in a localized area.
Highly trained and experienced doctors create a customized treatment plan for each patient, including radiation dosage and number of treatments. Sometimes treatment plans use radiation therapy alone; other times chemotherapy and/or surgery are also recommended. Depending on your pet’s diagnosis, surgery may be done before or after the radiation treatment. Chemotherapy, if indicated may be given before, during or after radiation depending on the patient’s condition.
When a cure or long-term tumor control is not possible, radiation therapy may be used in a palliative therapy protocol. The goal of palliative therapy is to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life by shrinking or stabilizing the cancer while minimizing side effects. Palliative therapy uses fewer treatments at a higher dose of radiation, with a lower total amount of radiation received.
What to expect
Prior to initiating radiation treatments, complete staging of the cancer is usually recommended. Staging is the process of determining the type of cancer and whether or not it has or is likely to spread. Staging may include a biopsy of the tumor, blood work, urinalysis, X-rays, and ultrasound. Some patients also require a CT scan. You may discuss these tests with both your primary care veterinarian and with Dr. Meleo; your primary care veterinarian may be able to perform some of these diagnostics.
A “definitive” protocol is a course of therapy with the goal of curing the cancer. It usually consists of 15-22 radiation treatments, given once a day Monday through Friday. Weekends are left open as a time of rest and recovery for both patient and family. Some patients may be candidates for SRT—stereotactic radiation therapy. This technology allows precise treatment of a tumor in one to three doses of radiation.
To ensure accurate delivery of the radiation, anesthesia is necessary so that patients do not move during treatments. The anesthetic drugs leave the body quickly and usually do not accumulate. Most patients are anesthetized for less than 30 minutes and can go home soon after waking up.
Minimal side effects
There are some risks involved with any type of cancer treatment. Some normal cells will be killed along with the cancer cells. Radiation side effects occur only in the area where the pet is treated. Usually pets suffer less from radiation therapy side effects than humans do. The most common side effects for pets are radiation dermatitis (a reaction of the skin) and oral mucositis (lesions in the mouth). These are generally mild and usually last no more than two weeks. Side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are very rare with radiation therapy.
After radiation therapy
A customized recheck schedule will be recommended depending on your pet’s type of tumor and radiation protocol. This monitoring can be done by your primary care veterinarian or by us at BluePearl.
To ensure your pet’s continued health, we always recommend our patients maintain an ongoing relationship with their primary care veterinarian for regular exams, vaccinations, and other routine medical concerns.
Karri Meleo, DVM, DACVIM-Oncology, DACVR-Radiation Oncology
Dr. Meleo is a recognized leader in the field of veterinary oncology, with 28 years of medical and radiation oncology experience. She is excited to integrate radiation therapy into our multidisciplinary approach, which combines surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, electrochemotherapy and pain management to give the pets their best shot at beating cancer.
Chamisa Herrera, DVM, DACVIM-Oncology
Dr. Herrera, who is board-certified in veterinary medical oncology, has extensive training in managing patients who are undergoing radiation therapy, from coordinating chemotherapy and radiation treatments to managing radiation side effects. Should your pet need both medical and radiation oncology treatments, Dr. Herrera and Dr. Meleo will work together to ensure continuity of care and clarity of treatment plans.
Oncology veterinary technicians
The North Seattle Oncology Service has three service-dedicated veterinary technicians and a veterinary assistant on staff who combined are trained in anesthesia, chemotherapy treatment, immunotherapy, electrochemotherapy, clinical trials, and radiation delivery. Our support staff were selected for their passion for caring for cancer patients, excellent client communication skills, and unmatched technical skill in delivering cancer therapies.
BluePearl clinicians work together with your primary care veterinarian to give your pet remarkable care. In addition, if you are working with another medical oncologist, Dr. Meleo is happy to discuss coordination of care. The BluePearl team is committed to providing an excellent quality of life for pets and their families. Ultimately, our goal is to approach our patients with the love, dedication, and attention to detail that we would have for our own pets.