What is a Veterinary Oncologist and How to Find One

Author: Alison Book, DVM, MS, DACVIM (Oncology)

Published: May 30, 2014

Updated: May 18, 2021

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dog sitting in veterinarians chair Pet Cancer Specialists

A veterinary oncologist is a veterinarian that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in pets.

They have specific additional knowledge, expertise, and equipment that can all help to maximize not just the length of your pet’s life, but the quality of it too. And their expertise and insight can also help to put your mind at ease as you are facing the difficult decisions that may come with a cancer diagnosis.

A veterinary oncologist has undergone an additional 3–4 years of residency training in cancer medicine after attaining their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree.

In addition to their veterinary degree and residency training, to achieve their specialist certification in oncology, a board-certified veterinary oncologist also has to have demonstrated their knowledge and qualification in the field of cancer medicine by:

  1. Passing a challenging examination
  2. Publishing research that has contributed to the knowledge of cancer in pets

How to Find a Veterinary Oncologist for Your Dog

You can identify someone who is board-certified in veterinary oncology by the letters DACVIM (Oncology) after their name. You can learn more about veterinary oncology and find a searchable list of board-certified veterinary oncologists on the website of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

If your pet has been diagnosed with a type of cancer or your primary care veterinarian is highly suspicious of cancer, it is always a good idea to consult with a veterinary oncologist. Early consultation with a pet cancer specialist will often save you money in the long run and increase your chances of a good treatment outcome. An oncologist will help you:

  1. Understand the big picture about your pet’s diagnosis,
  2. Avoid unnecessary or repeated diagnostic tests,
  3. Prioritize diagnostic and treatment options so you can use financial resources wisely,
  4. Teach you about your pet’s prognosis so you can set realistic goals,
  5. Develop an appropriate treatment plan and coordinate efforts of your primary care veterinarian and other specialists such as surgeons and/or radiation oncologists.


Consulting a veterinary oncologist does not mean you are committing yourself to treating your pet with cancer. Veterinary oncologists are skilled at listening to your goals in order to help you make the best decision for your particular situation. If treatment is desired, your veterinary oncologist is able to help assure that chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, and/or immunotherapy are utilized in the safest and most beneficial way to help your pet. If specific treatment is not desired, your veterinary oncologist can help you to keep your pet comfortable and prepare for the future.

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