Hospital for Small Animals

Double radiotherapy success for arthritic dog with cancer

Leading veterinary cancer centre uses radiation treatment to help Labrador with thymoma and severe joint pain.

Golden labrador retriever on beach with a woman kneeling down in the sand
Bailey is back to full health after radiotherapy to treat his cancer and arthritis

A Labrador retriever has been successfully treated with radiation therapy twice, following referral to the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies' Hospital for Small Animals.

Veterinary Specialists in radiation oncology used the Hospital’s linear accelerator; a machine that is commonly used to deliver radiation treatments to cancer patients.

The treatment reduced the size of the dog’s tumour by more than 50 per cent. The dog benefited from further radiation therapy to treat arthritis in his elbow joints.

The dog is now thriving, with increased energy levels and mobility as a result of the treatment.

Rare cancer

When Bailey, an 11-year-old Labrador retriever, was diagnosed with rare cancer of the thymus – so-called thymoma – by his vet, he was referred to the Hospital for Small Animals’ Riddell-Swann Veterinary Cancer Centre for treatment.

The thymus gland is found in the dog’s chest and is surrounded by the heart and lungs. It is very rare, but thymoma may develop in the thymus. A CT scan showed that Bailey’s thymoma was more than 15cm in size and was pressing on his heart, lungs, trachea and oesophagus. Bailey was very lethargic and weak, had increased thirst and urination, and gagged when eating.

At the time of diagnosis, blood tests showed that Bailey also had life-threatening high levels of calcium. To treat this rare disorder – a paraneoplastic syndrome associated with thymoma – he received intravenous medication, called zoledronate, from his primary care vet. This helped to decrease his high calcium levels before being referred to the Hospital.

Surgery to remove the tumour was not an option as it had invaded surrounding structures in Bailey’s body. Radiotherapy was therefore considered to be the best option for him.

Radiotherapy success

images showing abdomen of dog before and after radiotherapy
Images before and after treatment show that radiotherapy has reduced the size of Bailey's tumour (outline shown in green) by more than 50 per cent

Radiotherapy uses a special form of high-energy photons, which penetrate deep into tissues to reach the tumour and destroy rapidly growing cancer cells, while sparing normal surrounding tissues.

Bailey, who had travelled from Birmingham with his owner, received 20 sessions of radiotherapy as an outpatient to reduce the size of the tumour and prolong his life. The treatment was delivered using the Hospital’s VitalBeam linear accelerator over a four-week period. Cone beam CT was performed on daily basis to verify patient position, so that radiation could be applied with millimetre accuracy.

Bailey was discharged back into the care of his owner and own vet after his final radiotherapy session, with checks every three months at the Hospital to monitor the size of the tumour.

Nine months after the final radiotherapy session, Bailey’s tumour continues to get smaller. Radiotherapy has successfully shrunk the tumour by more than 50 per cent and it no longer compromises his heart, lung or oesophageal function. His calcium levels have also remained normal since treatment.

Severe arthritis

Bailey was referred to the Hospital for a second time due to his severe arthritis that was not responding to traditional medical management. His mobility was limited, and he was in a lot of pain.

Targeted radiation therapy has also been shown to significantly reduce inflammation in the joints and the pain associated with arthritis. Bailey therefore received three sessions of low-dose radiotherapy over the course of a week to both his elbows.

Since his radiotherapy, Bailey’s mobility and quality of life have significantly improved. Closer to his home, he also attends hydrotherapy and physiotherapy to help maintain his joint function in the future.


We can't thank the Dick Vet oncology team enough for their expertise and the loving, attentive, supportive care they have given, and continue to give to Bailey. Without them Bailey would not be here today. Following radiotherapy treatment for his tumour and arthritis, Bailey is now a picture of health and exudes happiness and playfulness once again.

Rachel Moran and familyBailey’s owners

We are thrilled with how Bailey’s thymoma has responded to the radiotherapy, allowing him to continue to have a fantastic life. We were delighted to be able to offer radiotherapy for his arthritis. This had become his primary issue, despite multimodal treatment by his primary care vet. Bailey is always happy to come and see us, usually because his visits involve a lot of cuddles and treats.

Charlie HawkesResident in Small Animal Oncology, Dick Vet Hospital for Small Animals

Cancer expertise

The Riddell-Swan Veterinary Cancer Centre is one of the largest oncology centres in Europe and has more than a decade’s experience in providing world-class care for pets diagnosed with cancer.

It offers a full range of diagnostic and therapeutic options including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted medical therapy and accepts referral from vets across the UK.

With a large team of RCVS Specialists in Oncology and European and American Diplomates in Oncology and Radiation Oncology, and a state-of-the-art linear accelerator in the UK, the Hospital offers advanced techniques to diagnose and treat cancer using radiation therapy.

About the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies  

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is a one-of-a-kind centre of excellence in clinical activity, teaching and research. Our purpose-built campus, set against the backdrop of the beautiful Pentland Hills Regional Park, is home to more than 800 staff and almost 1400 students, all of whom contribute to our exceptional community ethos.  

The School comprises:  

The Roslin Institute  

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems  

The Roslin Innovation Centre  

The Hospital for Small Animals  

Equine Veterinary Services  

Farm Animal Services  

Easter Bush Pathology  

The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education  

We represent the largest concentration of animal science-related expertise in Europe, impacting local, regional, national and international communities in terms of economic growth, the provision of clinical services and the advancement of scientific knowledge.