Veterinary Oncology: Medical & Radiation Therapy for Pets

Veterinary OncologyAt Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, we understand how overwhelming it may be to learn that a cherished pet has cancer. Our team of specialists offers compassionate and quality healthcare to our patients and helps guide you on the available options.


What is Electrochemotherapy?

Electrochemotherapy allows for a small dose of chemotherapy to be given locally (administered into the tumor or scar) or systemically (intravenous injection) with minimal side effects. Then, electrical pulses are applied to make the cell membrane of the tumor cells more porous. This allows a larger amount of the chemotherapy drug to enter the tumor and increases the likelihood of killing the cancerous cells. Electrochemotherapy may help chemotherapy work 70 to 1000 times more effectively.

Treatable Tumors

  • Oral Tumors Adenocarcinoma of the Skin Sarcomas Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Skin
  • Mast Cell Tumors
  • Fibrosarcomas
  • Perianal Carcinomas
  • Localized Lymphoma
  • Periorbital Tumors (tumors around the eye)
  • Papillomas Nasal Planum Tumors Melanomas

Why Electrochemotherapy?

Electrochemotherapy works best with residual disease after a tumor has been removed surgically, but this therapy can also be used with some tumors that cannot be removed surgically. This treatment option provides a more targeted approach at decreasing the tumor size, while minimizing the systemic toxicity to the rest of the body.


Electrochemotherapy is administered during an outpatient visit. Depending on the tumor’s response to treatment, 2-3 treatments may be required.

  • Patients arrive in the morning
  • Patients are either heavily sedated or anesthetized
  • Chemotherapy is administered directly into the tumor or scar, or intravenously
  • After 5 minutes, electrical pulses are administered; the entire procedure takes approximately 20 minutes

Patients are sent home toward the end of the day.

Side Effects

Potential side effects following electrochemotherapy administration are minimal. These may include:

  • Localized heat and mild redness
  • Itching at the site treated
  • Degranulation of Mast Cell Tumors
  • Swelling
  • Mild discomfort at the site treated

Local chemotherapy administration has a much lower risk of vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, bone marrow suppression, etc. as compared to traditional chemotherapy.

Outcome of Electrochemotherapy

Your veterinary oncologist will decide if your pet is a good candidate for electrochemotherapy based on evaluation of the tumor, tumor type, and general health. Electrochemotherapy can be used to treat tumors that cannot be removed with surgery or after surgery when the tumor is incompletely removed. Outcomes of electrochemotherapy can be compared with traditional radiation therapy, while electrochemotherapy is more cost effective in comparison.


The RBVH team of veterinary medical oncologists diagnose and manage the treatment of cancer patients by providing evaluation and consultation, diagnostic and treatment planning, and a wide variety of both medical and non-medical therapies. These therapies may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, nutritional assessment, and integrative therapy. The treatment plans are specific to each patient and range from definitive cancer treatment to pain relief focused treatments. This degree of individualized, comprehensive patient care is made possible utilizing the expertise of the wide array of specialists working alongside our medical oncologists on a daily basis.

Our medical oncologists are dedicated to staying current with novel therapies and the advancement of science through oncology-related research studies. Our team is part of the Animal Cancer Institute, a co-operative oncology group, and active members of the Veterinary Cancer Society, ensuring our patients benefit from cutting-edge diagnostics and treatments.

Read how we keep cancer patients safe.


Radiation therapy is the use of high energy beams of radiation to treat tumors. It is used to treat a variety of cancers including tumors of the skin, nose, brain, mouth, bones and gastrointestinal tumors. Our radiation oncologist has extensive training and experience using radiation therapy alone to treat tumors, or in combination with chemotherapy or other immunotherapy to induce a greater tumor response. We utilize advanced imaging modalities including CT and MRI which help to visualize the tumor and its surrounding anatomy as well as state-of-the-art 3 dimensional treatment planning equipment. Patients are treated with a linear accelerator which produces and focuses a beam of radiation precisely where the tumor is located.

Our technology brings new hope to cancer treatment.


  • Increases the radiation dose to the tumor, while decreasing dose to normal tissues
  • Allows treatment of multiple sites while sparing tissues and organs in between
  • Allows treatment of tumors not historically treated with conventional radiation therapy

Innovative method of radiation delivery, whereby a dynamic multileaf collimator allows for the precise and accurate delivery of radiation to the tumor, while avoiding accumulating radiation dose in adjacent normal tissues and organs

  • Provides pain relief
  • Minimizes side effects
  • Offers improved quality of life
  • Consists of 15-20 treatments


  • Fewer side effects versus conventional radiation therapy
  • Fewer number of anesthetic events required for treatment
  • Curative intent radiation doses given within 1 week
  • Consists of 1 -5 treatments


  • Definitive radiation therapy used to treat multiple tumor types
  • Consists of 12-20 treatments

What is a board certified veterinary radiation oncologist?

Board certified veterinary radiation oncologists specialize in the treatment of cancer patients using radiation as the main modality of treatment as opposed to a medical oncologist who uses chemotherapy. In addition to completing undergraduate training and four years of veterinary school, board-certified radiation oncologists are similar to their human medical counterparts in that they have completed an internship and then a radiation oncology residency program (an additional 3-5 years training). This is followed by a rigorous examination to achieve board-certification status from the American College of Veterinary Radiology; which oversees Radiology (diagnostic imaging) and Radiation Oncology (radiation therapy). Passing this examination grants the status of Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Radiology (DACVR). The area of concentration is then placed in parenthesis after that title. For example, DACVR (RO). Radiation oncologists work closely with other specialists such as surgical oncologists, general and board certified surgeons, internists, and medical oncologists.


This approach combines conventional treatments with complementary therapies in order to care for a pet’s mind, body, and spirit.

Acupuncture involves the placement of tiny needles at specific locations that encourages the body to heal itself. For oncology patients, it helps promote an improved quality of life and helps minimize chemotherapy and radiation side-effects such as diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, and poor appetite.

Chinese massage helps maintain or improve both physical and emotional well-being in pets. The release of endorphins created by massage causes a reduction in pain, especially muscle and joint discomfort, and can be a compassionate and effective therapeutic intervention for senior pets. Massage of specific acupressure points can also be performed to continue promoting healing and treatment.

Food therapy incorporates our clinical nutritionists to develop an individualized diet plan that will help ensure your dog or cat is receiving optimal nutrition during and after cancer treatment. Our clinical nutritionists can help decide which commercial diet is best for your pet, provide unbiased recommendations on dietary supplements, and develop a recipe for a home-prepared diet, if needed. Principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine can also be incorporated into diet formulations to promote healing through nutrition.

Chinese herbal medicine is based on the use of plants or plant extracts to treat illness and promote bodily functions. Herbal formulations may be prescribed to the veterinary cancer patient to manage side effects of chemotherapy or radiation, decrease pain, enhance the immune system or for their anticancer properties.


Sometimes, part of your pet’s oncology treatment plan will involve surgery to remove as much of the cancerous tumor as possible, before or after chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Our oncology department works alongside board-certified surgeons to recommend the best treatment approach and timing of surgery in hopes of providing the best outcome for our patients.


Our doctors participate in a variety of clinical studies that provide cancer patients with access to new or promising treatments and therapies that may help advance cancer treatment in animals and help gain insight on certain diseases. Qualifying patients are monitored carefully and strict adherence to the treatment protocol is necessary. Evaluation of the patient depends upon study guidelines, but generally involves visits to our hospital.


This type of care utilizes traditional and non-traditional resources for treating cancer and increasing a pet’s quality of life when the therapeutic goal is not to cure the disease but rather to relieve the symptoms. Pain management and quality of life counseling, as well as information on hospice and pet loss, can be discussed during this time.


Red Bank Veterinary Hospital hosts a pet loss support group comprised of other pet owners who understand the grief associated with losing a pet. This service is available to you at no charge. The group also provides assistance to pet owners experiencing anticipatory grief, the feeling that occurs prior to the actual death of a companion animal. This type of grief is frequently experienced by those caring for a chronically ill, terminally ill, or senior pet.


Listen as Dr. Kendra Pope of our oncology team discusses how to combine traditional cancer treatments with integrative options such as acupuncture. This was recorded during her February 20, 2016 appearance on "Your Pet Matters", 107.7 The Bronc.