MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Every year, thousands of pets in South Florida are diagnosed with cancer. More and more pet owners are taking advantage of medications and technology to try to extend their pets’ lives.
Animal Cancer Care Clinic in Fort Lauderdale is one of a handful of comprehensive cancer clinics for pets in the country.
The clinic uses state-of-the-art equipment and offers chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Dr. Stephanie Correa, a veterinary oncologist, founded Animal Cancer Care Clinic and leads a team of specialists. “Our surgeon, a medical oncologist, our radiation oncologist, our critical care doctors, cardiology, it all comes into play when you’re treating that cancer patient,” she explained.
Dr. Correa said more people treat pets with cancer than in the past.
“There have been so many advancements for people that are diagnosed with cancer and we think of our pets as family members so we want those same kind of options available for our pets,” she said.
In the past year, Animal Cancer Care Clinic’s six centers have treated about 2,000 animals. CBS4’s Maggie Newland’s dog Gatsby is one of the patients.
Gatsby was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2011. Dr. Armando Villamil, a veterinary oncologist, explained that Gatsby needs to be closely monitored. She has frequent blood tests, takes medications daily, and gets regular x-rays to make sure the cancer hasn’t spread.
“I live one visit at a time, and as long as she’s doing well we continue the treatment,” said Villamil.
The drugs used to treat dogs and cats are the same as those used in people and so is the radiation equipment. Veterinary oncologists say pets generally do not have severe side effects from the chemotherapy or radiation.
Jennifer Smith, of Key West, had her dog Luci treated for a nasal tumor. Luci went through four weeks of radiation therapy. The therapy uses a machine that used to treat human patients, “It was sort of refurbished and adapted to treat veterinary patients,” explained Dr. Pedro Dominguez, a veterinary radiation oncologist. The machine specifically targeted Luci’s tumor without damaging her eyes or brain.
Radiation costs between three and nine thousand dollars. Smith said she didn’t hesitate to treat Luci. She stayed in Ft. Lauderdale during Luci’s four week course of treatment.
“It is quite expensive, but we don’t have children so we didn’t question it. We just knew it was something we had to do,” said Smith.
To find out more about what treatment are available to animals with cancer in South Florida, click here: http://www.animalcancercareclinic.com/