Virtual Visits with a Veterinary Oncologist
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VetSpecialists Blog

Virtual Visits with a Veterinary Oncologist

by Kelly Hume, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology)
Apr 28, 2021

My pet has cancer and I need help.

Many owners of pets with a mass have heard their veterinarian say, “This is a malignant cancer. You should go see a cancer specialist.” This cancer specialist is called an oncologist.

For some, there might be a veterinary oncologist in your town, or a town nearby. For others, a cancer specialist might be very far away. Sometimes, there might be a long wait list for an appointment. A virtual appointment might be an option for you to learn more about the type of cancer your pet has.

What can happen during a virtual appointment?

What the specialist will be able to do will depend on the state you live in and the specialist you see. Here are some possibilities:

  • The specialist can review records from your primary care veterinarian who has examined your pet.
  • You can talk about how your pet currently feels.
  • You can tell the specialist what medications or supplements you give your pet and confirm if the doses are appropriate.
  • You can ask questions about what kind of cancer your pet has, how it may have developed and what this means for your pet’s prognosis.
  • You can ask if additional tests are recommended and find out their costs.
  • You can ask questions about treatment, side effects, and cost.
  • If there are medications the specialist would like your pet to take immediately, the specialist can discuss these with you and your primary care veterinarian.

There are some drawbacks to a virtual appointment.

  • The specialist will not be able to examine your pet. This means they cannot feel for problems or test for pain. They cannot listen to your pet’s heart and lungs. However, depending on the software program or “app”, you might be able to show the specialist areas you are concerned about, and the specialist might be able to watch your pet walk and breathe.
  • Specialists may not be able to prescribe medications without seeing your pet “in-person” or performing additional diagnostic tests. They should still be able to explain what medications they recommend and help coordinate this care through your primary care veterinarian.
  • During an evaluation, you often would like to meet and get to know the specialist, and this is more difficult during a virtual appointment. Sometimes, it’s hard to develop trust in a specialist when you’ve never physically met them. Keep in mind that the specialist has gone through rigorous training to learn to care for your pet’s condition and they want the best for you and your pet. You should feel free to express any concerns you have so the specialist can address them.

How will a virtual appointment help my pet?

  • If you know what additional tests are recommended, you may be able find a place you could have these tests performed while you are waiting to see the specialist.
  • The specialist can learn about your pet and your family. You can learn the recommendations of the specialist. This lets you both determine a plan for the actual clinic visit.
  • By learning about your pet’s diagnosis, you will be better prepared to address it.

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