EPISODE 249 | RELEASED July 8, 2024

Maximize Your Dog Cancer Vet Investment | Dr. Megan Duffy

Whether you are seeing a veterinary oncologist once to get your options, or choose to pursue treatment, you should try to get the most out of your vet oncologist visit.


Get the Most Out of Your Vet Oncologist Visit: Tips

Preparing to get the most out of your vet oncologist visit will make a significant difference in the value you get from the consultation.

Navigating a cancer diagnosis for your dog can be overwhelming. It’s a challenging time, and you almost need a crash course in your dog’s diagnosis. Guess who can give you one? A veterinary oncologist. But specialist consults are expensive; sometimes four times the cost of a general practice veterinarian. (Specialist consults are also four or five times longer than the typical quick general practice visit.)

We sat down with Dr. Megan Duffy, a veterinary oncologist, to discuss how to maximize the dollars and time you invest in your first oncology visit.

Expect a Lengthy Visit

Oncology appointments are not quick, routine visits. They are detailed consultations that typically last at least an hour. During this time, your veterinary oncologist will thoroughly discuss your dog’s diagnosis, treatment options, and what to expect in the future. Dr. Megan Duffy emphasizes the importance of setting aside sufficient time for these appointments to ensure all your questions and concerns are addressed.

Bring Comprehensive Medical Records

One of the most important steps in preparing for an oncology appointment is gathering all relevant medical records. This includes veterinary records from the past two years, any recent imaging results, and a summary of treatments your dog has received. Include records from every veterinarian, including holistic or integrative veterinarians, so your vet oncologist has the most complete vision of what’s been helping your dog so far. Even if your oncologist’s office has already requested these documents, bringing a copy with you ensures that no crucial information is missed. Having a CD or USB drive with digital copies of imaging can also be helpful.

Do Your Own Research Ahead of Time

Doing some preliminary research can be incredibly beneficial. (We recommend DogCancer.com’s knowledge base of articles.) Another reputable source is Veterinary Information Network’s pet parent page. Online forums like ours at DogCancer.com/support can also be of great assistance. However, remember that just because one dog was treated in a certain way and it helped, it doesn’t mean it would help YOUR dog. Make a list of questions or concerns for the veterinary oncologist based on your research. This preparation helps you get the most out of your vet oncology visit by ensuring you leave the appointment with a clear understanding of your dog’s condition and treatment options.

Prepare for Emotional Conversations

Discussing a cancer diagnosis and treatment for your pet can be emotionally taxing. It’s important to be mentally prepared for these conversations. Dr. Duffy advises being ready to talk about your dog’s quality of life, financial considerations, and your expectations for treatment. These discussions are essential for creating a treatment plan that aligns with your values, and your dog’s needs.

Utilize Technology for Records

The state of electronic medical records in veterinary practices can vary widely. Some clinics are fully digital, while others may still rely on handwritten notes. Dr. Duffy highlights the importance of bringing digital copies of medical records and imaging whenever possible. This can streamline the consultation process and ensure that all necessary information is readily available.

Understand Your Rights to Medical Records

As a pet owner, you can request and receive copies of your dog’s medical records anytime. This includes all veterinary notes, test results, and imaging. Having a complete set of records ensures that any veterinary specialist you consult has all the information they need to provide the best possible care for your pet.

Bring Your Dog to the Appointment

It might seem obvious, but always bring your dog to the oncology appointment. Dr. Duffy explains that specific legal and medical guidelines require a physical examination of the pet to make accurate treatment recommendations. The oncologist needs to assess your dog’s overall health, behavior, and any physical signs related to the cancer to provide tailored advice.

Limit the Number of Attendees

Limit the number of people who accompany you to the appointment to avoid distractions and ensure a focused consultation. While it’s important to have support, too many people in the room can be overwhelming and counterproductive. If necessary, bring essential family members or caregivers who are directly involved in your dog’s care.

Understand the Financial Commitment

Oncology consultations can be more expensive than regular veterinary visits. According to Dr. Duffy, the typical cost for an initial consultation ranges from $200 to $250, depending on the region. This cost reflects the vet oncologist’s time and expertise in reviewing your dog’s medical history and developing a comprehensive treatment plan. Understanding this financial commitment and the value of the information provided can help you get the most out of your vet oncologist visit.

Set Realistic Expectations

It’s important to have realistic expectations about your dog’s prognosis and treatment outcomes. Dr. Duffy advises discussing the general prognosis with your primary vet or doing some initial research to understand what to expect. This can help prevent any misunderstandings and ensure that you are prepared for the oncologist’s recommendations.

Median Life Expectancy

One term you’ll likely hear during your oncology consultation is “median life expectancy.” This is a statistical term that represents the middle point in a range of outcomes. Understanding this concept can help you set realistic expectations for your dog’s prognosis and treatment. Dr. Duffy explains that while dogs may do better or worse than the median, it provides a useful benchmark for what is typical for a given condition.

Final Thoughts

Thorough preparation, clear communication, and realistic expectations are key to get the most out of your vet oncologist visit. By following these steps, you can ensure you’re providing the best possible care for your dog and making informed decisions about their treatment. You are not alone in this journey.

Watch the video below, or listen to the audio version of this interview above. You can also find the Transcript for the audio version below.

Join our Facebook support group at https://www.dogcancer.com/support

Your Voice Matters!

If you have a question for our team, or if you want to share your own hopeful dog cancer story, we want to hear from you! Go to https://www.dogcancer.com/ask to submit your question or story, or call our Listener Line at +1 808-868-3200 to leave a question.

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