The Riddell-Swan Veterinary Cancer Centre

Information for Referred Clients

Welcome to the Riddell-Swan Veterinary Cancer Centre at the University of Edinburgh.

Linac close up

Our mission is to improve the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of cancer affecting companion animals, as well as to help translate research and knowledge to improve cancer care in people. We are a fully comprehensive cancer centre and offer advanced therapy including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and palliative care.

The Riddell-Swan Team

The Oncology team is comprised of vets who specialise in the treatment of cancer, residents seeking advanced oncology training, a specialised oncology nurse, and a trained radiation therapist. One primary aim of our center is to fully inform you about the diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of your pet’s particular cancer such that you are comfortable making decisions that are right for you and your pet. During your first visit to the Riddell-Swan, an oncology clinician will consult with you to discuss your pet’s cancer and what (or if) additional testing is necessary prior to determining an optimal course of treatment.

Board Certified Specialists

Just as in human medicine, veterinary specialists are available to aid the general practitioner with complex or specific cases. It is important to consult with a specialist who is board-certified in veterinary oncology; these are individuals who have spent several years in intense training in cancer diagnosis, management, and prognostication. They have seen hundreds of cases and taken rigorous examinations to ensure they meet the qualifications of a specialist. Specialists at the Riddell Swan Veterinary Cancer Centre are board-certified by either the European College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ECVIM - subspecialty Oncology) and/or the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM - Oncology) and the American College of Veterinary Radiology (ACVR - Radiation Oncology). Together with a team of veterinarians in the midst of intense training, oncology patients are managed collectively to ensure consistent care.

Many  general practice vets do a wonderful job at treating cancer but may not have new information on treatments or access to specialised equipment like a linear accelerator (linac). Specialists at the Riddell-Swan Cancer Centre work closely with your general practice vet to ensure they understand the diagnostic and treatment recommendations that are made for your pet. Many pets will follow-up with their practicing veterinarian following cancer therapy.

Prior to determining the optimal treatment for your pet’s cancer, a number of vital pieces of information need to be gathered such as:

  • What type of cancer does your pet have?
  • How is your pet’s cancer likely to behave (what is it likely to do)?
  • How advanced is your pet’s cancer?
  • Does your pet have other diseases or conditions that might limit the diagnostic and/or treatment options available?

About Cancer in Pets

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells on or in the body. Cancer in pets is a relatively common disease and is the leading cause of death in pet dogs and cats. Not all cancer is the same but many types are treatable with long term control with specialised cancer care. Treatments offered for cancer in humans is becoming increasingly available for pets, including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, biologically targeted therapy, and immunotherapy. While not every treatment is recommended for each pet, our goal upon consulting with you and your pet is to ensure that you are aware of the options that may be used to treat your pet’s cancer.

Cancer can be a complicated disease process and many “warning” signs and symptoms are often not specific for cancer. However, if you notice any of the following symptoms, please consult your vet. Please note that the presence of these signs does not mean that cancer is the only diagnosis

  • Abnormal bleeding or discharges (e.g. from the eyes, nose or other orifices)
  • Problems with eating or swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite, marked weight loss or gain, or excessive water consumption
  • Difficulty in passing urine or faeces, abnormal urine or faeces, or incontinence
  • Uncharacteristic behaviour (e.g. unexplained aggression or lethargy)
  • Newly discovered lumps
  • Limping, or difficulty getting up or lying down
  • Excess scratching, licking or biting any part of the body
  • Dramatic hair loss, sores, an unkempt or dull coat, or unusually smelly breath

If your pet is diagnosed with cancer, this does not mean that your pet cannot be treated and/or that suffering and death are imminent. A number of cancers can be treated effectively and for those that we cannot gain long term control (or cure in some cases), there are often many options for treatment.

Treatment options

If cancer is diagnosed, several treatment options are typically offered and discussed at length. Treatment options will be different depending on the type and location of your pet’s cancer, the extent (stage) of cancer in your pet, and the expectations for response. Treatments for pets generally parallel treatments for humans and the most common options are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy; treatments may be used alone or in combination depending on the cancer type. Additional therapies recently introduced in veterinary oncology include biological (targeted) therapy and immunotherapy.

The Royal Canin Cancer and Wellness Clinic

We have a specialist nurse clinic dedicated to maintaining optimal health, wellbeing and quality of life in patients with cancer.

Our nurse will support and advise you, giving an opportunity to ask non-veterinary questions and talk about your pet, rather than their disease.

This is in no way intended to replace routine veterinary care and will be run alongside regular appointments, either here or at your own practice.

Clinic schedule

We see new cases on Mondays and Tuesdays, and usually admit these patients for further investigation. We may keep patients hospitalised for two to three days for initial tests and to create a treatment plan. We ask you withhold food for at least 12 hours before the appointment.

Chemotherapy treatments and routine re-visits are on Wednesdays and Thursdays. First consultations normally take an hour, and revisits thirty minutes.

Further information for referred clients

More information on how to contact us and what to expect when you have been referred.

Your first appointment

Prior to your first appointment your vet will discuss what to expect but we have also have some guidelines to help you prepare.