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I just found out my pet has cancer, and my veterinarian has told me that I am being referred to you. What do I do now?
Finding out that a beloved companion has cancer is never easy. After hearing this news it is not uncommon for your emotions to take over, and the last thing you need is to be trying to get your pets the care they need only to run afoul of confusion and red tape. To help you through this difficult time we have provided a brief explanation of our referral process.
To ensure that we appropriately schedule your initial visit with us we ask that the referring veterinarian provide us with some information. This information is sent to us on our Referral Form. It provides us with your name and how we can contact you, information about your pet, and some important medical information such as the diagnosis, recent blood work and other lab results that will give us a better understanding of the case. After we receive this information it is reviewed by one of our Oncologist's and the appropriate scheduling for your appointment is determined.
All cancer patients need care and treatment. But not all cases are the same. Some patients, such as ones that have just had surgery, need time to heal before they are seen by us. Other cases are scheduled to be seen in the next available appointment slots. Some cases are much more serious cases and may need to be seen sooner and we need to rework our schedule. And then there are cases where the patient may not be ready to be seen by us, and we may recommend some additional care or treatment be provided before you come see us.
Once we have reviewed the case one of our receptionists will call you to schedule your initial visit to us.
I have been referred to you, but I'd like to talk to one of the doctors before I schedule an appointment. Can I talk to a doctor before my first appointment?
Unfortunately the answer is no. While we may have developed a brief understanding of your pet's cancer from the referral information provided many times it does not answer all of our questions. And it would be inappropriate of us to discuss the case with you before we have seen you and your pet. If you have concerns about your pet after your veterinarian referred you to us and before your first appointment you should discuss them with your vet, and if necessary they can call us for a consultation.
How long will I have to wait for an appointment?
Availability for appointments is dependent on the number of new patients that are referred to us. We work with our newly referred clients to try to schedule the first appointment at a time that is convenient for you. We make every effort to see all new referrals as timely as possible. Most new patients can be seen within one to two weeks of the time we receive the completed referral from your veterinarian.
Do I need to bring anything from my veterinarian with me?
Prior to scheduling an appointment, we have already requested the medical records and diagnostic reports from your veterinarian. If your veterinarian has taken x-rays or other images (CT, MRI, Ultrasound), we will need these images to review at the time of the appointment. The most reliable method of getting any diagnostic images to us is for you to bring them with you. The majority of images these days are digital and can be put on a CD by your veterinarian which you can bring to us. If you cannot get them from your veterinarian you can ask your vet to send them to us. But be sure, whichever method is used, that the information gets to us before your appointment.
What will happen during my first appointment?
This is a very difficult question to answer because there can be so many ways the appointment can progress. The first appointment begins with us getting more familiar with you and your pet. We go over the information provided by your vet and when necessary get more information from you about your pet. We will observe your pet and do a brief physical examination. We will talk to you about your pet's specific cancer, what treatment options may be available, potential side effects of treatment and how treatment may extend your pet’s life. If needed, we can also consult with other specialists such as surgeons, internists and radiologists. The next steps will be based on your goals and what you feel is best for you and your pet. The first visit is an opportunity to take notes and ask questions. It is perfectly appropriate to go home and review the information that you have received before making any decisions.
Do I need to bring my pet with me for the initial visit?
Yes. We need to be able to examine your pet as this may give us additional important information that is not in the medical records. We typically request that animals be fasted for the first appointment in case there are tests that require fasting (ie ultrasound and any procedure requiring anesthesia). This means no food 8-10 hours prior to the visit but it is fine to give water up until the time of the visit. If you have concerns about your pet being able to fast, please ask us so that we can better advise you.
How long will my appointment last?
We generally schedule our new client visits for one hour. The actual appointment may be longer or shorter depending on decisions made during the appointment.
Will any tests be done during the first visit?
This again will be dependent on the case. In some cases the information provided by your referring veterinarian is sufficient for us to proceed. In others, we may suggest additional staging such as radiographs (x-rays), a CBC (complete blood count), chemistry panel, or even an ultrasound or CT. Some of the tests can be done during your visit while others may need to be scheduled for a different day depending on availability. During your visit we will discuss any additional staging needed, the costs, and when we would be able to schedule the work.
Will my pet get chemotherapy or radiation as part of the first visit?
There are different factors that will determine the answer to this question. Some cases require additional tests be performed before an appropriate treatment plan can be developed. For some cases the owners want more time to make their decision, and therefore are not ready to begin treatment. And in other cases, after discussing and accepting a treatment plan, the owner is ready to begin treatment and may select to begin treatment immediately. So the answer is that it is dependent on the particulars of the case, and your readiness to begin.
My pet is very well behaved and I rarely need to use a leash. Is that acceptable?
Unfortunately no, that is not acceptable. We know that many of the companions brought to us are extremely well behaved. But you need to remember that at times some of them are not feeling well. And like us, pets can be unpredictable when not feeling well and in an unfamiliar location. So we ask that all canine companions be brought in with a leash, and all feline companions be brought in a carrier.
How long does it take to get to your practice?
Unfortunately we do not know the travel time for every one of our clients. We suggest you check with a website, such as Mapquest, that can provide specific driving instructions and travel time. Keep in mind that at different times of the day the traffic patterns can vary. Please make sure that you give yourself enough time to make your appointment.
I am stuck in traffic and running late for my appointment. What should I do now?
Unfortunately most of our days are fully booked and if you miss your appointment time we cannot guarantee that we will be able to see you. If you are running late, please call our office and let us know. Sometimes we will instruct you to keep coming and we will try to see you. When this happens we do ask that upon your arrival you be patient as our plan will be to try to work you in amongst the other appointments that are scheduled for that day. In some cases, we may have to ask that you reschedule your appointment. There are many factors that will affect this decision, so please call and we will advise you how to proceed.