What will be discussed during my appointment?

While this will vary somewhat depending on your pet’s condition, several topics will be discussed during your appointment. These topics may include, but are not limited to:  

  • The diagnosis or the likely diagnoses and how to differentiate between them;   
  • Pathophysiology, or the “why” behind the condition or disease;  
  • Treatment options, which may include both surgical and non-surgical options;  
  • Post-operative care, both in-hospital and after your pet goes home;  
  • Prognosis, or what to expect for the future (short-term and long-term);  
  • Rechecks and monitoring, which may be required in the future;  
  • Estimated costs of the proposed diagnostics and treatment options;  
  • Any other questions you may have.  
  • Why does my dog need to be fasted for the appointment?

Your pet may need to be sedated for certain diagnostic tests (e.g. x-rays), which is most safely performed on an empty stomach.  Your pet may also need blood tests which require fasted samples for the most reliable results.  If your pet is diabetic please contact the hospital in advance of your appointment to confirm whether or not fasting is advised. 

Will you need to repeat radiographs or other diagnostic tests already taken by my family veterinarian?  

We always try to avoid repeating diagnostic tests if at all possible, but there may be reasons that we need to do so for a particular patient.  For example,  for some procedures we need to make specific measurements from the radiographs, which can only be made if the limb is positioned in a very particular way. In other cases the radiographs are weeks or months old, and we need to see more current images of your pet’s bones, joints or organs to more accurately assess the disease process.  We may also need to repeat bloodwork that has previously been performed at your family veterinarian, if we need more current results or other specific tests.  If you have questions about this, please feel free to ask.   

Why do we need to do preoperative blood work on healthy pets? 

Preoperative bloodwork usually consists of a CBC (or “complete blood count”) and chemistry panel. These are “screening tests”, meaning that they look for a wide variety of non-specific problems rather than any particular abnormality.  These tests help us to check that your pet’s internal organs (e.g., kidneys and liver) and immune system are functioning properly. Most of the time, the preoperative blood work simply confirms that your pet is healthy. If there are abnormalities on these screening tests we may recommend additional testing.  Your pet’s bloodwork results may have an impact on which medications we decide to use during their stay in hospital, or at home.  Any other considerations as a result of the pre-operative blood work will be discussed with you on the day of your appointment.   

Why are your recommendations different to what my family veterinarian discussed? 

The specialty services at the AVC-VTH make recommendations for your pet based on the information they obtain from your family veterinarian, along with their findings from discussion with you, physical exam and further diagnostic testing.  Their advice will be tailored to your pet’s specific condition and circumstances based on their expertise having completed extensive specialty training.  Sometimes this may differ from what your family veterinarian anticipated.  Any treatment recommendations are made in what our clinical care team believe are your pet’s best interests, and we welcome discussion around this should you have any questions.  

My dog or cat hasn’t pooped since surgery. Should I be concerned? 

For the first few days after most procedures, this isn’t a cause for concern. It can often take a few days for an animal to have a bowel movement after surgery.  Your pet was fasted before surgery, meaning there is less “moving through” the intestines.  Many of the pain medications we give our patients can slow the intestines down.  As long as your pet is eating normally and not showing signs of constipation (straining to defecate and/or posturing to defecate frequently) or having accidents in the house, they will likely have a bowel movement in due time.  Please feel free to call us if you have any concerns about this.   

How do I know if my pet’s surgical site is infected?  

Every surgical incision will show signs of inflammation as it heals after surgery. These signs can include swelling, heat, redness, and pain.  Inflammation is an important part of the healing process and usually resolves quickly.  If these signs persist beyond the first few days after surgery, get worse with time, or you see a discharge from the incision, it may have become infected and you should contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.   

Should my pet have antibiotics after surgery? 

Usually patients do not need antibiotics after surgery, as evidence shows that in many cases antibiotics do not prevent infection – rather, they actually encourage that any infection which may develop is resistant to antibiotics and harder to treat. We have a responsibility as veterinarians to practice responsible antibiotic stewardship and do our part in preventing the development of antibiotic resistant “super bugs”, thus antibiotics should be avoided unless they are needed.    

There are a number of procedures where antibiotics are appropriate to be prescribed and where this is the case for your pet, it will be discussed with you by the clinical care team. 

My pet has had a bandage, splint, or cast placed. How frequently do these need to be changed?   

Usually bandages/splints/casts are changed on a weekly basis, but your discharge instructions will tell you exactly how frequently this is recommended. It is extremely important that the limb under the splint or cast is evaluated regularly for pressure sores and swelling. If these problems occur and are not addressed, they can lead to severe complications for your pet.  If your pet has a bandage, splint, or cast on and you notice problems with it (foul odor, swelling or spreading of the toes, decreasing use of the limb or incessant chewing at the bandage), please seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. 

How can I be sure that my pet is progressing appropriately after surgery?  

Specific advice will vary depending on the individual patient and procedure performed.  Generally, patients are expected to improve gradually after surgery and should be eating, drinking, and urinating normally at home. If your pet is showing signs of gastrointestinal upset (not wanting to eat, vomiting, diarrhea), pain (hiding, guarding a limb or other area of the body, lameness), or infection, please give us a call. Similarly, if your pet had been showing signs of improvement is no longer, please call us for advice.   

I have additional questions after bringing my pet home. What should I do?  

First, please review your discharge instructions as many routine questions are addressed there. If you still have questions, then please call or email us. We can be reached by phone at 902-566-0950 or by email at sasurgery@upei.ca. Please note that, while we check the email inbox regularly, it is not constantly monitored.  For any urgent concerns please call us or your family veterinarian for immediate assistance.  

What kinds of patients does the Behavioural Medicine Service offer?

The Behavioural Medicine Service can help all kinds of patients:

  • those with established behaviour problems, 
  • those whom the clients worry might be developing a behaviour problem, 
  • new puppies whom people wish to ensure get a head start on learning the ‘right stuff’ that will allow them to grow into happy, nicely behaved adults, 
  • recently rescued dogs whom people wish to give the right start to their new, and sometimes complex lives, 
  • dogs and cats living with people who are pregnant or adopting a baby or child and want to ensure that they understand and mitigate any potential risk for concern, 
  • dogs and cats who are afraid of going to the vet, 
  • or just dogs and cats whom people wish to ensure will be okay with a new schedule, job, move, family addition, pet, et cetera. 

AVC is a veterinary teaching hospital and we strive to provide the next generation of veterinarians the best teaching experience in order to prepare them to look after your animals in the future. Rest assured however that the surgical procedures are performed by the specially trained surgeon and they oversee all aspects of the animals care. Students are invaluable in taking special care of the patients and monitoring them very closely with the whole team of technicians, residents, interns and students coming together under the supervising surgeon to provide excellent 24-7 care of your animal. 

If you specific questions ahead of your appointment, then please call or email us. We can be reached by phone at 902-566-0999.  For any urgent concerns please call us or your local veterinarian for immediate assistance.

Does my dog/cat need to be anesthetized, or sedated, for you to do your tests?

No, not in the majority of cases. Younger animals, anxious animals, or fidgety animals may be too restless to be still for something like a cardiac ultrasound or high-resolution X-rays, and in these cases, we may need to give a sedative. This is conscious sedation, not anesthesia. We always try without sedation first, because many restless or anxious dogs and cats just need gentle reassurance, and to avoid giving something that is not necessary. A small risk of adverse effects (which can be serious) always exists with sedation, and we only consider it when the risk of continuing without it seems greater.  

Can I call you directly to follow up with you, or do I need to call my family veterinarian?

Once your animal has been with us on the Cardiology Service, you are welcome to call us directly with any heart-related questions you have. We collaborate with all Atlantic Canadian family veterinarians and if your question is outside the realm of cardiology, or if we feel something can be taken care of equally well locally, we will say so.

Does a heart murmur mean my animal’s heart is in trouble?

This is the most common question we are asked because a heart murmur is detected during a physical exam with a stethoscope.  A heart murmur means there is turbulent blood flow in the heart. That means the blood flow through the heart is not smooth, but the degree to which this is a problem is different from case to case. So the simple and most honest answer to this question is: “It depends”. That is why a heart murmur is the most frequent reason for referral of animals to the AVC Cardiology Service: to find out whether there is something we should do something about (like medication), whether there is something more serious, or whether there is something that is actually quite minor and does not require any treatment at all.

I’ve been told that my pet has a grade II heart murmur.  What does a heart murmur’s grade tell me?

Very little. How a heart murmur sounds, through a stethoscope, is described in medical terms that go into a patient’s medical record. These descriptions allow a veterinarian to remember how a murmur sounds. Often this involves a numerical scale, but it is a mistake to think that loud heart murmurs (higher grade) automatically mean severe heart problems. In the same way, it is a mistake to think that all soft heart murmurs are harmless. Your veterinarian will use their assessment of your animal overall, including symptoms and results from any tests like X-rays -and not just a heart murmur’s grade- to decide whether to recommend a referral to see us. 

What if my animal is seeing another AVC Service? Will you be involved?

Some animals who have heart problems need medical care for other health issues. For example, a dog or cat may have a heart condition and still need general anesthesia here at AVC for dental work or an elective surgery. When this happens, we consult with the Anesthesiology team (here at AVC we are fortunate to have the only board-certified veterinary anesthesiologists in Atlantic Canada) and the attending AVC veterinarian to plan for the lowest-risk anesthetic. When there is interplay between a heart condition and another health condition such as internal medicine disorders, we consult with these colleagues to develop a plan that takes the whole patient into consideration. This is a major advantage of having over 30 veterinary specialists under the same roof.

Do I need a referral from my veterinarian to come to AVC Cardiology?

Generally, yes, with a few exceptions. Your family veterinarian is well suited to helping arrange a referral to AVC Cardiology since they are familiar with your animal’s history and medical needs and are often making the initial assessment that a heart issue may be present. Once your pet has been seen by AVC Cardiology, you can then call us directly and arrange future heart rechecks with us. If your pet visits the AVC Emergency service and they determine that a heart problem may be present, a referral may be arranged internally from the Emergency service if desired. Breeders seeking heart clearances on their breeding animals may arrange these types of appointments directly with the AVC Cardiology service through the Client Services team.

I have additional questions after bringing my pet home. What should I do?

First, please review your discharge instructions as many routine questions are addressed there. If you still have questions, then please call or email us. We can be reached by phone at 902-566-0950 or by email to vthreception@upei.ca. Please note that, while we check the email inbox regularly, it is not constantly monitored.  For any urgent concerns please call us or your family veterinarian for immediate assistance.  

My pet has a Wellness appointment – what should I expect?

Whether you have a new puppy or kitten needing their first vaccines, or you have an adult or senior pet needing a check-up, we love seeing your furry family members for their wellness appointments. 

Wellness appointments are an excellent opportunity to ensure your pet’s health is on the right track and address any issues that might be arising.  We also take this opportunity to discuss preventative care, particularly flea and tick prevention, deworming, recommended vaccines and nutrition. 

Like you, we are passionate about your pet’s health and recognize that every pet’s lifestyle and needs are unique – just like them! We believe in working together to create the best plan for your pet. We want pets to have a positive experience while they are in our hospital and we use our training and knowledge to provide this. As the person who knows them best, we seek and value your input and participation to help create a comfortable and safe environment for your pet.

My pet has an appointment because they are unwell – what I should expect?

If you have concerns about your pet or they are experiencing an illness, the Community Practice team is here for you. Appointments can be booked through the Client Service team, who can be reached at 902-566-0950. If you, or our Client Service team, are concerned that your pet’s illness is of an urgent nature, it will be recommended that you come to the hospital for your pet to be triaged by the primary emergency service.  

If your appointment is booked with the Community Practice service, you will first meet with a senior veterinary student and then with the veterinarian. We will collect a history and perform a physical exam. When pets are feeling unwell, we often need more diagnostic tests to better understand their condition. This can be a stressful time and we are trained to help you navigate these situations. Our veterinarians will take the time to explain their observations and what they feel are the recommended next steps for your pet. You will be provided with an estimate so that you can review the anticipated costs together with your veterinarian. Your pet may need to be admitted into the hospital so that the agreed upon tests may be completed and reviewed and a treatment plan devised. Whenever possible, your pet’s needs are addressed on the same day as your appointment.  Some diagnostic tests and procedures, such as x-rays and biopsies, may not be completed on the same day as your appointment.  In which case, we will provide you with another appointment time as promptly as possible and will explain what may be required in advance of that appointment (fasting, for example).

We believe in a team approach for your pet’s care with you being an important part of that team. Our veterinarians are skilled in managing complex situations and have an empathetic approach to communication. If necessary, we are also able to facilitate referral through one of our in-house specialty services to ensure that your pet has access to the highest standards of care.  

My pet is booked in for an elective surgery – what should I expect?

Elective surgery and procedure appointments are available for patients of the Community Practice service. This includes spays, neuters, dental cleanings and dental extractions. If you are not currently a client of the Community Practice Service and wish to book an elective surgery with us, you will be asked to first book a wellness appointment so that we can meet you and your pet, assess their health and discuss the details of the upcoming procedure.

On the day before your pet’s procedure you will be scheduled an appointment for your pet to be admitted to the hospital.  During this appointment, our team will collect a history and review the details of the procedure and anesthesia with you to ensure that all of your questions have been addressed.  You will be given an estimate of the costs and you will be asked to sign a consent form.  We understand that you may be worried about your pet undergoing an anesthetic and procedure.  Your pet’s well-being is our top priority and our team of veterinarians, technicians and students will be attentive to their needs during their stay at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.  Your pet will have a blood test to assess their overall health before their procedure.  . Your pet will be fasted overnight while in hospital to be ready for the next day’s procedure.   Our hospital is staffed 24-hours a day by veterinarians and registered veterinary technicians so your pet will never be alone and will be closely monitored and cared for any time of day or night.  

At the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, elective surgery Community Practice patients benefit from the support of our specialty Anesthesia service, who help to ensure the safest possible procedure for your pet and their needs.  Pets usually remain in hospital overnight to monitor their recovery from the procedure and provide appropriate pain management.  Your pet will be discharged to you the following day.  At your discharge appointment, you will be provided with discharge instructions, expectations for the recovery period and any medications prescribed will be reviewed with you.  If your pet requires a post-operative recheck, this appointment will be booked prior to departure.

How will the Community Practice service support my family and my pet as it approaches end-of-life?

Our Community Practice team is experienced with helping owners understand how to assess their pet’s quality of life and where appropriate, how to approach difficult end-of-life decisions

This is the most challenging time for pet owners and it can be overwhelming. Our team are here to help you through this process. If you have concerns about your pet’s quality of life, it is helpful to have an appointment to discuss this in-person with a veterinarian.  During this appointment, your veterinarian will listen to your observations and concerns and assess your pet’s health status.  Our goals are to ensure you feel heard and supported.  We will support you with information to help you make the right decision for you and your pet, and will be here for you when it is time to say goodbye to your pet.  We want to provide a compassionate and peaceful experience for your pet and your family.  We will talk you through the appointment, help you understand what to expect and give you as much time as you need to spend with your pet.  We will also explain and guide you through options for your pet’s aftercare.  

Appointments with the Community Practice service can be booked through the Client Service team, who can be reached at 902-566-0950.  If you would like to discuss your pet’s needs with a Community Practice team member, please also call through to the Client Service team at 902-566-0950.

What are the frequently used diagnostic tests used by the Dermatology service?  


Cytology involves taking surface samples from your pet’s skin and viewing these samples under a microscope. These samples are obtained with minimal to no discomfort to your pet and provide valuable information to help aid in diagnosis of your pet’s condition. Cytology will help determine if your pet has a skin infection requiring treatment, and will also help identify certain cells types that can be present during different disease processes. 

 Skin scrapings

Skin scrapings involve the use of a dulled scalpel blade to check for the presence of parasites on or in your pet’s skin. Pet’s tolerate these scrapings very well and generally show no signs or discomfort during the procedure. Scrapings are viewed under a microscope to verify whether a parasitic infestation is present. 


We may recommend taking a blood sample from your pet. Certain skin/ear issues can be due to high or low levels of particular hormones within the body. Specific blood tests can be used to identify the levels of these hormones and determine whether they are adequate. Bloodwork may also be recommended prior to certain medications to make sure your pet is healthy prior to beginning a medication. 

Allergy Testing

Both intradermal (skin) and serum (blood) allergy testing can be performed in allergic patients. Certain situations may dictate which test would be more appropriate for your pet, and this would be discussed with you prior to testing. Please read our “Allergy Testing Frequently Asked Questions” section for more information about allergy testing. 

Skin biopsies

Skin biopsies involve taking samples of skin from your pet to be sent to a histopathologist in the Diagnostic Services laboratory for further assessment.  This test might be recommended if your pet’s skin condition is suspected to be due to skin cancer, immune mediated skin disease, a rare type of skin disease, abnormality of the hair follicles or any skin issue that has not fully resolved following appropriate treatment.  Your pet’s Dermatologist will select very specific sites for the biopsy and provide the histopathologist with your pet’s medical information and a list of possible diagnoses so that the histopathologist can accurately identify changes in your pet’s skin. 


Disorders of the ears are common in cats and dogs and otoscopy (ear exam) is an important tool for determining why ear issues are occurring. Otoscopy can be performed using a hand held otoscope (if your pet is not too painful and willing to have their ears examined). It can also be performed using a scope, under anesthesia or sedation (for pets who are painful or have debris in their ears that needs to be removed). Otoscopy helps identify any changes along the ear canal, determine the health of the ear drum itself and look for any lesions within the ear canal. 

Frequently Asked Questions – Dermatology – Allergy Testing

Why is intradermal allergy testing (skin allergy testing) used?

Allergy testing will be scheduled if your family veterinarian believes your pet has environmental allergies. The purpose of testing is to determine specific environmental allergens that your pet is reacting to in order to formulate a treatment (allergy immunotherapy/allergy shots).

What is involved in Intradermal allergy testing?

Intradermal allergy testing involves testing your pet to see if they are allergic to allergens in the environment. During the test small quantities of allergen extracts are injected into your pet’s skin and then monitored to see whether a small “hive-like” reaction occurs at the site of injection. Your pet will be sedated for the test and a patch of hair will be shaved on their side so the reactions can be seen.

Will the allergy test include food allergens?

The test does not include food allergens. Skin and blood testing for food allergies are inaccurate. We recommend completing a strict elimination diet in order to accurately determine whether a food allergy is present and which dietary items are causing allergic symptoms.

What allergens do we test for?

When most people say “environmental allergies”, our minds jump to pollen allergies, which only occur Spring/Summer and Fall. However, in our pets we can also see allergies to mold spores (Spring “Thaw” and Fall “Leaves”; as well as year-round indoor), insects (Summer and Fall) and also indoor allergens such as dust mites, which can be present year-round. Your pet can have environmental allergies if they are itchy year round. Our allergy test looks for positive reactions to multiple types of tree pollens, grass pollens, weed pollens, mold spores, insects, dander and dust mites.

What do I need to know if my pet is referred for allergy skin testing?

Patients referred for intradermal skin testing will need to have the following medications withdrawn prior to testing:

– Oclacitinib (Apoquel®) – stop medication 3 days before testing

– Cyclosporine (Atopica®) – stop medication 2 weeks before testing

– Long-acting injectable corticosteroids (Depo-medrol®) – stop medication 8-12 weeks before testing

– Oral corticosteroids (Prednisone, dexamethasone, Vanectyl-P®) – stop medication 4 weeks before testing

– Topical corticosteroids (including ear medications containing a steroid) – stop medication 4 weeks before testing

– Antihistamines (Benadryl®, Reactine®, Claritin®, Hydroxyzine, etc.) – stop medication 2 weeks before testing

– Amitriptyline (Elavil®), Fatty acids, Pentoxifylline, Cyclosporine (Atopica®) – stop medication 2 weeks before testing

In the 2 weeks prior to allergy testing, you are able to continue the following :

– Bathing using non-steroidal shampoos & cool water up to once daily

– Antibiotics/anti-yeast medications to address bacterial/yeast infections

– Cytopoint®) injections

– Ivermectin/avermectin trials to eliminate ectoparasites

Please feel free to contact the VTH if you have questions about a medication your pet is currently taking.

Your pet should be fasted the morning of the allergy testing appointment with no food given after 10pm the night prior. 

If your pet has diabetes or another medical condition requiring specific feeding times please contact the VTH for advice regarding fasting. 

Pets under 16 months of age are not routinely tested as their immune system will not have been exposed to every season a second time. 

What can I do to keep my pet comfortable while waiting to be tested?

You can have your pet wear a T-shirt and/or bathe more frequently.  Bathe with cool
water to help relieve itchiness.  Any secondary bacterial/yeast infections can be treated to improve your pet’s comfort.

When will I have the results for the skin testing?

The results of the intradermal allergy testing will be available the same day as testing. 

What happens after the test?

Allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots or allergy drops) will be formulated based on your pet’s positive reactions. Typically allergy injections will be started within 2-4 weeks after testing. Approximately 70-90% of pet’s respond positively within 6-12 months of starting immunotherapy. 

Why would I do Allergen immunotherapy for my pet’s allergies?

Allergen immunotherapy is the only therapy that directly addresses your pet’s allergies to environmental allergens such as grasses, trees, weed pollens, molds, and house dust mites. It is the safest and most effective long-term therapy.

How will the allergy immunotherapy be given?

Immunotherapy can be given via an injection just under your pet’s skin (subcutaneous injection) or it can be given as drops into your pet’s mouth. There are differences in the schedules between the injections and the drops – these can be discussed at your appointment with the veterinary dermatologist.

Will my pet need to stay overnight for the testing?

Your pet will not need to stay with us overnight as long as there are no complications with the sedation. They will be able to go home after the test but may be sleepy or slightly unsteady on their feet so may require supervision for a few hours after the test. 

**Please bring a T shirt or sweater to the appointment for your pet to wear on the drive home**

What services does the Large Animal Surgery Service offer?

 AVC is a veterinary teaching hospital and we strive to provide the next generation of veterinarians the best teaching experience in order to prepare them to look after your animals in the future. Rest assured however that the surgical procedures are performed by the specially trained surgeon and they oversee all aspects of the animals care. Students are invaluable in taking special care of the patients and monitoring them very closely with the whole team of technicians, residents, interns and students coming together under the supervising surgeon to provide excellent 24-7 care of your animal. 

Large Animal Surgery Services provided: 

Emergency Surgery

  • Abdominal surgery (Colic, Abomasal Displacements) 
  • C-Sections 
  • Fracture repair 
  • Wound repairs 
  • Tendon lacerations 
  • Ophthalmic emergencies 
  • Urethral obstructions 
  • Bladder rupture 

Elective Surgeries

  • Arthroscopic surgery (OCD, Chip Fractures) 
  • Routine and cryptorchid castrations 
  • Laparoscopic surgery (Ovariectomy, Abdominal) 
  • Hernia repair 
  • Upper airway surgery (Tie Back, Tie Forward, Laser Procedures) 
  • Standing surgeries 
  • Angular and flexural limb deformities 
  • Foot surgery (Neurectomies, Canker, Quittor) 
  • Joint Arthrodesis 
  • Mass removals 
  • Wound revisions (Sequestrum removal, Skin Grafting, Perineal Reconstructions) 
  • Umbilical surgery 
  • Tendon surgery 
  • Dental extractions and repulsions 
  • Sinus surgery 
  • Ophthalmic surgery (Conjunctival grafting, Eyelid reconstructions, Enucleations) 
  • Guttural pouch surgery 


  • Routine and complicated lameness evaluation 
  • Radiographs 
  • Ultrasound 
  • Advanced imaging such as CT (coming soon…on-site MRI)  

I have additional questions about my animal’s care. What should I do?

First, if your animal has been discharged from the AVC Teaching Hospital, please review your discharge instructions as many routine questions are addressed there. 

If you still have questions or have specific questions ahead of your appointment, then please call or email us. We can be reached by phone at 902-566-0999For any urgent concerns please call us or your local veterinarian for immediate assistance.

What are the most common types of cancers in dogs? How many dogs typically get cancer?

One in four dogs will be diagnosed with cancer, which is the leading cause of death in pets older than middle-aged.  The most common types of cancers that specialty veterinarians see are lymphoma (up to 24% of all new canine cancers are lymphoma); osteosarcoma (most common primary bone tumor which accounts for 85% of all skeletal tumors and are quite aggressive); mast cell tumors (most common skin tumors in dogs); oral melanomas in dogs (most commonly occur on the skin, in the mouth and on the toenails); haemangiosarcoma (malignant tumors derived from the cells lining blood); and transitional cell carcinoma in dogs (most common tumor type of the urinary system in dogs).

What can I expect at a first appointment for my pet with cancer?  What tests might they want to do and what should I ask?

Our clinicians will ask you for a full medical history and perform a very careful physical examination on your pet. Typically, the treatment plan for your animal will depend on the specific diagnosis, grade, and stage of the cancer. This may require collecting tissue (biopsy), fine needle aspirates (FNAs), radiographs, ultrasound, or even CT or MRI scans to identify how aggressive (the grade) the tumor is and the extent (stage) of the tumor in the body.  We will need to check that your pet is healthy enough to undergo therapy, so blood tests will also be needed, if relevant blood tests haven’t already been performed recently. These may include a complete cell count prior to chemotherapy, a serum chemistry profile to assess organ function, and a urinalysis or culture to assess kidney function and screen for infection.

Be sure to ask for information that you need to know to make the best decisions for your pet.  A frank discussion about prognosis will help with your decision-making and a clear understanding of the risks and effects of the treatment is also important.  Request the information that you need to feel you are making the right decisions.  Keep in mind that the future of any patient is unknown.  The best oncologist will not be able to tell you exactly what to expect. However, experienced specialists are good at helping you understand the range of possibilities to anticipate.

What can specialists offer that my own local vet can’t do?

Specialty services at the AVC-VTH have both specialized knowledge and access to specialized equipment.  They are expert at understanding the status of the cancer affecting your pet’s health and helping you make decisions to maximize quality and quantity of life.  They have experience handling the chemotherapy medicines that are used to treat cancer, and minimizing the risks of severe side-effects from those medicines.  They have equipment to thoroughly diagnose and treat your pet as safely as possible.

Do most dogs and cats with cancer end up having surgery?

Although more cancer is cured with surgery than any other single modality, it is very important to understand that surgery is not always the best treatment for every cancer in every pet.  Some tumors may respond better with one or a combination of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and/or immunotherapy. Some tumors may have microscopic “fingers” or “tentacles”.  If these cannot be removed, the tumor most likely will grow back.  It is always recommended that a tumor should be sent for histopathology (tissue analysis) after removal to confirm the diagnosis and whether the tumor is malignant or benign.  Sometimes a simple biopsy before complete removal can make a huge difference in knowing whether or not a larger surgery is even necessary.  A fine needle aspirate can help to make a diagnosis. Histopathology helps answer questions like: Will this tumor grow back? Will it spread? Is there a cure? What additional treatment is recommended to control regrowth or spread of the tumor? What can I do to help make my pet feel better for as long as possible? What would happen if I do nothing?

How do pets typically respond to treatment? What should I expect?

Decisions around the treatment of your pet for cancer can be very challenging but your pet’s clinical care team is trained to help you make the correct decisions and support you and your pet through their treatment. Our goal is to cure or treat the cancer while keeping the well-being and quality of life for your pet as normal as possible.   

The response to treatment depends on the type of cancer that your pet has and what treatments are available for it. As there are many forms of cancer there is no general rule on how well an individual patient will respond to therapy but for some cancers, treatment can be very successful. 

Do cats and dogs react like humans do to chemotherapy treatments?

Good quality of life while on treatment is paramount for your pet and the side effects of chemotherapy for pets are typically not comparable to those in humans.  Most pets receiving chemotherapy don’t experience significant fur loss though certain breeds may, such as Poodles and Old English Sheepdogs.  For most pets, their coat may become a little thinner treatment and any areas that were shaved for procedures will regrow slowly during treatment.  Cats may experience a loss of whiskers, but they will often grow back after treatment.  Some patients may experience loss of appetite, nausea or diarrhea.  Although not common, if this does occur, it is usually between 2 and 7 days after chemotherapy treatment and we can prescribe medications to resolve these issues, if needed.  

Calculating and adjusting doses of chemotherapy drugs, providing supportive care for any side effects and regular discussions with you about how your pet is feeling and coping with the treatment are part of the special relationship that you and your pet’s specialist will share throughout the duration of its care.

Are there any special home care instructions for my pet after receiving chemotherapy?

As a precaution to avoid you coming into contact with chemotherapy drugs that may be eliminated in your pet’s urine, feces and vomit during the first 72 hours after treatment, we recommend the following steps are taken.  

  • Make clean up easier by trying to keep your pet in an easy to clean up area for the first few days such as a linoleum or tiled floor.
  • Try to keep your dog’s excretions in one area of the yard where no other pets or children have access for the first few days after treatment.
  • Wear gloves for clean-up.
  • If your pet has an accident in the house, any solid waste should be disposed of in the toilet.  For liquids, soak up as much as possible with toilet tissue and dispose of in the toilet.  Do not spray area until waste is soaked up to prevent aerosolization.
  • If your pet is a cat, use clumping litter and carefully dispose of any waste as soon as it is noted.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly.
  • If you are pregnant, nursing, or trying to conceive please avoid doing any of the waste clean-up for your pet for the first 3 days after treatment.

These are only precautions as the actual amount of chemotherapy drug likely to be excreted by your pet is very small.

I have additional questions after bringing my pet home. What should I do?   

  First, please review your discharge instructions as many routine questions are addressed there. If you still have questions then please call or email us. We can be reached by phone at 902-566-0950 or by email at . Please note that, while we check the email inbox regularly, it is not constantly monitored.  For any urgent concerns please call us or your family veterinarian for immediate assistance.   

Which species do you treat?

The AVC’s ZEW team sees a huge variety of species across the Zoo, Exotics and Wildlife services (examples below).

Companion Exotics

  • Rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, hamsters, rats, gerbils, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, invertebrates, other (just call us at 902-566-0950 and ask us; we’re willing to see anything!)


  • Songbirds, bird of prey species (eagles, hawks, falcons), corvids (bluejays, ravens, crows), water birds (gulls, ducks, shorebirds), mammals (red foxes, coyotes, squirrels), reptiles, amphibians, others.

Zoological Species

  • All species, large and small

We are also willing to see other species that might not appear to fall into one of the above categories such as pet chickens, animals from petting zoos, and potbellied pigs.

About us

The AVC-VTH is passionate about its goal to provide an outstanding level of health care for its animal patients while also providing clinical teaching and instruction to our senior (final year) Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students, interns and residents.[more]

Clinic hours

The AVC Veterinary Teaching Hospital operates 8 AM to 10 PM 7-365. Our front desk is staffed from 8am until 11pm 7 days a week. Clients can call to make appointments, request prescription refills, or to make other general inquiries during those hours. Appointments for Community Practice and Specialty Services are scheduled from Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm based on service availability. Clients with animal emergencies can call between 8 AM and 10 PM-7-365.

AVC Urgent & Emergency Primary Care
8am-10pm Mon-Sun

If you are a small animal pet owner experiencing an emergency, please call 902-566-0950 or our primary Emergency Service. If you are a registered large animal client of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital (including Farm Service and Ambulatory Equine Service clients) and are experiencing an emergency, please call 902-566-0950 and our team will contact the appropriate on-call large animal clinician.

To make an appointment

AVC Small Animal Hospital
Companion animals, exotic animals, pocket pets, wildlife

AVC Large Animal Hospital
Horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and other farm animals

AVC Ambulatory Equine Services
On-farm and racetrack care for horses

AVC Farm Service
Herd health, on-farm and emergency service for cattle, pigs, fish and other farm animals