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University of Missouri

Caring for Animals with Cancer

MU veterinarians offer specialized care at a new St. Louis location.

Veterinarian treats dog for cancer

Veterinarian George Buckaloo, DVM ’72, readies Angus, a black Labrador retriever, for a radiation treatment on a linear accelerator. Photo by Rob Hill.

With the opening of the Mizzou Animal Cancer Care facility in Wentzville, Mo., in June 2011, companion animals in the St. Louis area have convenient access to the latest in radiation therapy and clinical trials. Fewer than 70 animal cancer treatment facilities with linear accelerators exist nationwide, according to Kim Selting, assistant teaching professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Of the 100 or so companion animals with cancer that MU veterinarians treat on campus with radiation each year, about 40 percent travel from St. Louis. More pets could benefit from such treatment, Selting says, but owners choose not to make the trip for reasons of cost and convenience.

Cancer kills about one-third of cats and about half of older dogs, but radiation therapy facilities are scarce, and veterinarians might not consider such treatment an option, Selting says. So the college has hired longtime Kansas City veterinarian George “Renny” Buckaloo, DVM ’72, to educate the approximately 300 veterinarians in the St. Louis area.

Since opening in 2011, staff at the new site have had about 500 appointments, performed 265 CT scans and treated about 105 animals with radiation therapy. At the facility, located at 1092 Wentzville Parkway, veterinarians use CT scanners and digital radiography machines for diagnostic imaging, and a linear accelerator gives the radiation treatment. “Definitive” treatments intended to control tumors generally are given five days a week for four weeks. “Palliative” treatments to improve an animal’s quality of life generally are administered weekly for four weeks. During the 90-minute sessions, pet owners can either wait or drop off animals before work and pick them up afterward.

The facility also offers experimental treatments through clinical trials. Such therapies, often subsidized by the study, could test devices, chemotherapies, immunotherapies or other treatments.