Penn Vet | Animal Care & Welfare Detail
New Bolton Center Kennett Square, PA
Emergencies & Appointments:
Ryan Hospital Philadelphia, PA

Cancer Care for Shelter Dogs

By: Ashley Berke Date: May 23, 2016

[May 23, 2016; Philadelphia, PA] – With generous grants from the Petco Foundation and Blue Buffalo Foundation, Penn Vet will advance its Shelter Canine Mammary Tumor Program and launch a cancer treatment support fund at Ryan Hospital for owners who cannot otherwise afford the full cost of cancer treatment for their pets. The announcement coincides with Pet Cancer Awareness Month in May.

“Penn Vet’s remarkable frontline research efforts and treatment options are helping to change the way we approach cancer in both animals and humans,” said Susanne Kogut, executive director of the Petco Foundation. “Through these investments, we are proud to support efforts that will help countless pets and families impacted by this disease.”

Dr. Karin Sorenmo (l) with Brownie, a shelter dog that was treated through the Shelter Canine Mammary Tumor Program“Through our partnership with the Petco Foundation, we’re thrilled to support outstanding pet cancer research and treatment initiatives at work across the country,” said David Petrie, President of the Blue Buffalo Foundation. “The inspiring work taking place at Penn Vet exemplifies the critical role that universities and research centers play in understanding and eradicating pet cancer.”

Helping Shelter Dogs with Mammary Tumors and Women with Breast Cancer

Since 2009, Penn Vet’s Shelter Canine Mammary Tumor Program has provided care for shelter dogs with mammary tumors while advancing knowledge of both canine and human breast cancer. Founded and led by Dr. Karin Sorenmo, Professor of Oncology, the program aids homeless dogs without access to the care they need to survive. The program covers surgery and follow-up care costs and helps facilitate adoption. 

Shelter dogs provide an ideal population for studying mammary tumors because only 10 percent of animals received into shelters have been spayed or neutered. The incidence of mammary tumors in unspayed female dogs is at least four times greater than in spayed dogs.

Mammary tumors in dogs and breast cancer in women have many similarities, both in terms of risk factors and biology. Many of the dogs in Penn Vet’s program have multiple tumors, often in different stages of malignant transformation, providing a unique opportunity to research cancer progression.

Dr. Karin Sorenmo (r) with Brownie, a shelter dog that was treated through the Shelter Canine Mammary Tumor ProgramThe two-year, $525,000 grant from the Petco Foundation and Blue Buffalo Foundation will enable Sorenmo to continue her work in improving understanding of how cancer develops and finding better and more efficient drugs to treat and prevent cancer in both dogs and humans.

“Thanks to this very generous support, we can elucidate the complex biology of breast cancer while at the same time saving the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of animal shelter populations,” said Sorenmo. “It truly is a win-win situation.”

Helping Pets with Cancer Whose Owners Cannot Afford Care

Cancer is a diverse and complex disease with a wide range of clinical outcomes. Treatments can include chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, and supportive care. And many patients require a combination of these treatments. In addition to navigating these options, clients also face significant financial considerations. Thanks to the three-year, $350,000 grant, Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital will launch the “Petco Foundation & Blue Buffalo Foundation Cancer Treatment Support Fund” to provide financial assistance to pet owners who cannot afford cancer treatments.

“As a veterinarian who is trained to deliver the best in compassionate care, it is profoundly difficult, on both a professional and personal level, to experience the grief of a pet owner who has to euthanize a pet because the treatment is unaffordable,” said Dr. Erika Krick, Assistant Professor of Oncology. “Thanks to this generous grant, these emotionally overwhelming and devastating experiences can now be transformed into moments of hope.”

Owners in need will now have access to top cancer experts and treatments in the field at Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital. The fund will cover initial treatment costs for cats and dogs needing recommended, standard-of-care, urgent cancer treatment. The animals must be in otherwise adequate health and be expected to have a good quality of life following treatment. Additional parameters may apply.

About the Petco Foundation

At the Petco Foundation, we believe that every animal deserves to live its best life. Since 1999, we’ve invested more than $150 million in lifesaving animal welfare work to make that happen. With our more than 4,000 animal welfare partners, we inspire and empower communities to make a difference by investing in adoption and medical care programs, spay/neuter services, pet cancer research, service and therapy animals, and numerous other lifesaving initiatives. Through our Think Adoption First program, we partner with Petco stores and animal welfare organizations across the country to increase pet adoptions. So far, we’ve helped more than 4.5 million pets find their new loving families, and we’re just getting started. Visit to learn more about how you can get involved.

About the Blue Buffalo Foundation
The Blue Buffalo Foundation was established in 2003 by Blue Buffalo Company, Ltd., a manufacturer of natural dog and cat foods under the BLUE™ brand names. Finding a cure for pet cancer is one of the top priorities for Blue Buffalo because its founders have had very personal experience with this disease. “Our dog Blue, a large breed Airedale and a great pal, had three bouts with cancer,” said Bill Bishop, Blue Buffalo’s founder. “After Blue’s battles, we wanted to do something meaningful to help find a cure for this devastating disease. So one of the first things we did after starting our pet food company was to establish the Foundation to raise money for pet cancer research, and raise awareness among pet parents of the early warning signs of this disease.” Visit for more.

About Penn Vet

Ranked among the top ten veterinary schools worldwide, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) is a global leader in veterinary education, research, and clinical care. Founded in 1884, Penn Vet is the first veterinary school developed in association with a medical school. The school is a proud member of the One Health initiative, linking human, animal, and environmental health.

Penn Vet serves a diverse population of animals at its two campuses, which include extensive diagnostic and research laboratories. Ryan Hospital in Philadelphia provides care for dogs, cats, and other domestic/companion animals, handling more than 34,600 patient visits a year. New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large-animal hospital on nearly 700 acres in rural Kennett Square, PA, cares for horses and livestock/farm animals. The hospital handles more than 6,200 patient visits a year, while our Field Services have gone out on more than 5,500 farm service calls, treating some 18,700 patients at local farms. In addition, New Bolton Center’s campus includes a swine center, working dairy, and poultry unit that provide valuable research for the agriculture industry.