Chemotherapy FAQ

The chemotherapy visit

The care of cancer patients at our clinic is a team effort, which includes Dr. Sarbu, the oncology nurses and the front desk staff. Our staff is trained and able to answer many of your questions and concerns. Although at times some simple matters may be communicated to you by one of the oncology nurses, please be assured that all cases are fully supervised by Dr. Sarbu.

The chemotherapy visits are generally done on a “drop-off” basis. The following is a description of a routine chemotherapy day for your pet:

  • Your pet will be taken in by one of the oncology team members. Please let them know if you have any questions regarding the plan for the day or cost for the procedures/treatments (that is outlined in the last set of discharge instructions).
  • Your pet will receive a complete physical examination by Dr. Sarbu, and blood will be drawn to check the white and red blood cells (CBC) or other necessary tests. In some instances further diagnostic tests may be necessary (as outlined in the last set of discharge instructions).
  • While waiting for test results, your pet is placed in a comfortable cage. Bedding, a litter-box and water is provided. We generally do not feed the patients during the day, unless there is a medical reason (but you are welcome to bring in a meal for your pet, if you would like them to be fed). Patients are walked multiple times during the day.
  • If your pet has a very anxious personality and you are completely opposed to have him/her spend the day with us, you can plan to wait with your pet in the lobby or nearby. Unfortunately, that doesn’t shorten the time it takes to receive results or to give the treatment, but we will try our best to release your pet as soon as possible.
  • Once the test results are available (blood work results are typically available around 1:30pm), Dr. Sarbu reviews them and decides on the treatment.
  • For injectable chemotherapy treatments, patients are gently placed on their side. A small area is shaved over the vein to be used. The drugs can be given as a short injection or short infusion (over 20-30 minutes), depending on the drug. For the infusions, an intravenous catheter is placed and secured in place, and then it is connected with the IV line containing the chemotherapy agent. Most patients tolerate the infusions very well (it is not uncommon for them to fall asleep during the infusion, while they are being caressed by the staff administering the chemotherapy). If a patient is reluctant to lay down for the infusion, we prefer to be able to give him/her mild sedation, to ensure this is a pleasant experience for him/her, as well as for safety reasons (we would ask you for permission if sedation is needed). Most cats do require some sedation, especially for the infusion treatments. Once the infusion is over, the IV catheter is removed and a pressure band-aid is placed over the vein used.
  • We typically remove the band-aid before the patient is released, but if you notice your pet still has it, please remove it when you get home.
  • We do see a large number of patients for chemotherapy treatment every day and we take lots of precautions to make sure no mistakes occur. Chemotherapy is a very serious form of treatment and we do not rush through the treatments of our patients. Each patient is treated individually, with at least 2 people being involved in the administration of any injectable drug.
  • As a result of how we schedule our appointments and do the chemotherapy treatments, your pet will spend the day with us. We will call you when he/she is ready to go home (typically after 5pm, but it can be later). Dr. Sarbu will always discuss the results and the future plan with you over the phone or in person, depending on the release time.
  • You will also always receive detailed written discharge instructions. Please make sure you read them - especially the Medication section - for any changes, as well as mark your calendar for the next chemotherapy visit. We automatically make your appointments (if you need to change the day, please call us)
  • Keep in mind that in parallel with the chemotherapy appointments, our team receives and evaluates new appointments, hospitalized patients, as well as admits any of our current patients if they are not feeling good. Because Dr. Sarbu is the only doctor at Veterinary Oncology Center, we can only do things so fast and the admission of a sick, critical chemotherapy patient might delay the chemotherapy treatments in a given day. Please be patient with us on such days.   
  • For special circumstances, we can try to finish a particular chemotherapy treatment for your pet a little earlier than typical. Please let us know at the time of drop off. If you absolutely have to pick up your pet by a certain time, please call us a day ahead to discuss it and make sure it is possible (depending on what kind of evaluations have to be done or what kind of drug your pet will be receiving). Also, if in any given morning you are running late, we would greatly appreciate a phone call.
  • We realize that having your pet at the veterinarian’s office for an entire day can be a very emotional decision, especially if your pet requires weekly chemotherapy. You should know that we take pride in how we handle our patients and we treat them as if they are our own pets. We work hard to reduce their stress and make them comfortable during their stay with us. That involves lots of talking, caressing, treats (if you allow us), spending time loose in the room where we work (one at a time). We hope that we can meet your high expectations regarding your pet’s care at all levels and that you will be pleasantly surprised by how happy they are to spend the day with us. Please let us know if your pet is on a strict special diet and provide us with treats we can give during the day. We do have standard, healthy treats for pets that we can also give them.