New Bolton Center Kennett Square, PA
Emergencies & Appointments:
Ryan Hospital Philadelphia, PA
What to Expect

What to Expect When You Come Here

We understand that a pet’s diagnosis with cancer can be stressful.  We are here to help explain your pet’s particular type of cancer and the diagnostic and treatment options available, in order to help you make the best decisions for your pet and your family.

Preparing for Your Appointment

About Medical Records

The best way for us to understand what's happening with your pet is for us to have as much information as possible. Be sure that we receive records from your primary care veterinarian. 

  • Generally we request records from the past year, especially any bloodwork, imaging, or pathology results leading up to the cancer diagnosis. 
  • If your pet was previously diagnosed with a different type of cancer or another major health problem, these records are important for us to have as well. 
  • If your pet had diagnostics performed by multiple veterinarians, please be sure we have all pertinent records to review. 
  • Remember to ask your veterinarian to send images (x-rays, ultrasound, CT or MRI images).  If these can’t be sent by email, please pick up a disk or the film radiographs to bring to your appointment.
  • Bring a copy of your pet’s vaccination history.  Vaccine reminders are often printed on the most recent invoice from your primary care veterinarian.  

About Medications and Food

  • Make a list of your pet’s medications and bring this with you to your appointment.  Include the name of the medication, the size (mg) of the tablet, and the amount your pet takes per day.  For liquids, note the concentration (mg/ml) and the volume (mls) your pet takes per day.  
  • Note the name of your pet’s food and how much he/she eats per day.
  • Bring a list of any supplements that you are feeding your pet.
  • Be prepared to tell us if your pet has any allergies to food or medications, or if they have had a past reaction to a certain medication or vaccine.  We’ll also need to know if your pet has a history of any problems with sedation or anesthesia.
  • Please FAST your pet prior to their initial consult appointment, in case any additional imaging or sedation is needed.  This means no food after 10 pm the night before their visit.  Water is fine to continue.
  • Please check with us ahead of time regarding special instructions if your pet requires any medications with food in the morning, or if your pet is diabetic.  

Appointment Handouts

Along with a general information sheet, we've included the 'referral form', which you will need to have your primary veterinarian fill out so that we can know as much about your pet as possible prior to your visit.

What Will Happen at Your Appointment

When you arrive at Penn Vet, you will be greeted by the senior veterinary student assigned to your pet.

Information Gathering

Your veterinary student will begin your consultation by taking a detailed history.  We always review records from your pet’s primary veterinarian prior to your appointment, but we will likely ask additional questions to better understand what happened leading up to the diagnosis, as well as information about your pet’s past medical history.  As part of our history, we may ask some of the following questions:

  • When did you first notice a problem?
  • If your pet has a lump or mass, how large was it when you first noticed it?  What did it look like?  How has it changed since then?
  • Are there any changes in your pet’s activity or energy level?
  • Are there any changes in your pet’s appetite?
  • Is your pet drinking and/or urinating more or less frequently than normal?
  • Has there been any vomiting or diarrhea?
  • Has there been any coughing or sneezing?
  • Does your pet seem to be in pain? 
  • If medications have been prescribed for pain, are they helping? 

The Physical Examination

Following the history, your pet's veterinary student will perform a detailed physical examination.  As part of this exam, measurements will be taken of any masses, scars, or enlarged lymph nodes.  Sometimes people ask about coming for a consult without their pet, but it’s very important for us to examine your pet to offer our best opinion on treatment options.  Besides, we enjoy meeting your pet!

A Team-Based Approach

Once your pet's veterinary student has taken their history and physical exam, they will leave the room to discuss your pet's case with the veterinary team. This includes the house officers (residents and/or interns) and the senior attending veterinarian. 

Discussing Your Pet's Case: We ask our students to review their findings, and then develop a specific problem list, list of differential diagnoses, and diagnostic/treatment plan for your pet.  This discussion may take 15-30 minutes, and often involves quizzing our students and reviewing your pet's disease process.  The veterinary team will then return to the exam room with the student.  We may repeat some of the same history questions or ask them in a different way, and we will also repeat the physical exam.


The next step is often staging of your pet’s cancer.  Staging is the process of evaluating the pet’s body to determine if and where the cancer has spread (metastasized).  Staging tests may include:

  • Minimum Database (complete blood count, chemistry panel, urinalysis)
  • Digital Radiographs (x-rays) of the chest (3 views)
  • Abdominal Ultrasound 
  • Aspirates and cytology of the lymph nodes that drain from the primary tumor site
  • Ultrasound-guided aspirates and cytology of any abnormal organs, such as the spleen, liver, or internal lymph nodes
  • Biopsy and histopathology of any abnormal organs or new masses detected on physical exam
  • Bone marrow aspirate
  • CT scan or MRI

These diagnostic tests can often take several hours, especially if imaging tests are needed.  We always give a time estimate based on our diagnostic recommendations, but plan to spend at least 3 hours at PennVet on the day of your first consultation.  In some cases, it may be possible to leave your pet with us for a few hours, and meet again at the end of the day to discuss diagnostic results.

Additional Diagnostic Testing

In some cases, we may also recommend additional diagnostic testing in order to obtain more information about a particular disease process.  If your pet has already had cytology or a biopsy performed by your primary veterinarian, we can sometimes request that these tests be applied to that tissue.  Some of the additional tests that we may recommend are:

  • Immunophenotyping of lymphoma or leukemia patients with Flow Cytometry and/or PARR (PCR for antigen receptor rearrangement)
  • Immunohistochemistry or immunocytochemistry (“special stains”) to detect specific markers on cancer cells in a biopsy specimen

Treatment Recommendations

Once we have all of the information above, we can make specific treatment recommendations for your pet and provide information on potential treatment side effects, prognosis, and cost.  We try to discuss all treatment alternatives so that you can  make an informed decision on what will work best for your pet and your family.  There is no pressure to make a decision on the day of your appointment.  Many families take information home and consider all of the options before electing to start treatment.  We are always happy to answer questions that you may think of after your appointment.  Our primary goal is your pet’s quality of life, and we are here to help guide you through the treatment of your pet’s cancer with compassionate care and quality medicine.  

The Recheck Appointment

Recheck appointments are primarily for ongoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments, as well as regular rechecks exams and/or imaging.  All recheck appointments should be scheduled in advance through the Appointment Desk. 

Duration: Most recheck appointments take about 2-3 hours, depending on the purpose of the recheck. You may drop off your pet in the morning and pick up later in the day (please leave a phone number where you can be reached to discuss the diagnostic and treatment plan), or you may wait for your pet.  

Contact Phone Number: A nurse or veterinary student will greet you and your pet in the lobby and ask some questions about how your pet has been doing since their last visit.

Medications List: Be sure to bring a list of your pet's current medications.  Even if we prescribed them, it is important to review what they are still taking, and at what dose.  Make a note of which medications need refills, and let the nurse or veterinary student know.

Sedation: If your pet will be sedated or anesthetized for imaging tests, the nurse or veterinary student will review a special permission form with you to authorize these procedures.

What Happens: The nurse or veterinary student will bring your pet up to the CCC service, where your pet's primary clinician will complete a physical exam.  All necessary labwork will be collected and submitted to our Clinical Pathology lab, and required imaging will be performed by our Radiology service.

Diagnostic Results: When diagnostic results are available, your pet's veterinarian will speak to you in person or by phone.  

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy treatments are then ordered through the Pharmacy, and patients are treated by the CCC nurses.

About Our House Officer Team Members

As a teaching hospital, PennVet takes great pride in training the next generation of veterinary specialists, and this is particularly true in the Comprehensive Cancer Care service.  All of our house officers – residents and interns – have earned their veterinary degrees and are practicing veterinarians. They are always supervised by attending specialists who are board-certified in medical, surgical, or radiation oncology. 

Even if you are primarily communicating with a house officer, rest assured that your pet has met one or more of our board-certified specialists, and that your pet's case has been reviewed in rounds with the entire medical, surgical, and radiation oncology team.

It is important to remember that specialization is optional in veterinary medicine; not all veterinarians seek this additional training, which often encompasses 3-5 years beyond the 4-year veterinary degree program.  Specializing in all aspects of veterinary oncology is becoming increasingly competitive.

About Emergencies: We're Always Open

The Penn Vet Emergency Service is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year, including holidays.  If you are concerned about your pet after hours, please call the Emergency Service at 215-746-8911, or bring your pet directly in for evaluation.  

If you need to bring your pet to a different Emergency Service that may be closer to you, they can also call this number for access to your pet's records.  It is helpful to keep copies of your pet's most recent discharges from PennVet readily available in case you need to visit a different hospital on an emergency basis.

The CCC service is open Monday-Friday.  Routine appointments are seen Monday-Thursday.  Please call the Appointment Desk (215-746-8387) if you are concerned about your pet during normal business hours, and ask to be connected to the CCC service.  After hours, there is always a doctor on call for emergency questions.

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