specialty veterinarian careers winter haven fl

Veterinary Oncology in Winter Haven, FL

What is Cancer?

Cancer is a message from our body that there is a breakdown in our metabolism which allows cancer to occur. This is an opportunity for us to explore ways to make pets healthy again.

A healthy body is a combination of metabolic health, energy, genetic and epigenetic information. When one or several of those processes are damaged, disease and ultimately cancer can occur. Our philosophy is to identify and address the breakdown of these pathways. This allows us to truly integrate the standard of care with other treatment modalities and lifestyle adjustments for better outcomes for our patients.

At Veterinary Healthcare Associates in Winter Haven, FL our oncology department practices integrative and metabolic oncology.

By working with those metabolic pathways and understanding the holistic nature of those processes. Integrative oncology focuses on those metabolic pathways in health as well as conventional genetic based therapy.

Diagnosing Cancer in Pets

The first step in treating cancer is to diagnose the type of cancer, and determine whether or not there is metastasis (spread) using these tools:

With the tissue assay, we submit the entire tumor or cells from the tumor to a clinical pathologist for review. The review from this report is used to determine the type of cancer. Assessing the shape and characteristics of the cells under a microscope can also help us determine the type of cancer and give us insight about the cancer’s aggressiveness.

Radiographs, ultrasound, CT, and/or MRI can all play a role in determining the degree of a tumor’s invasiveness for surgical planning. These images can also determine if metastasis (spread) is present. Imaging is a critical tool in determining the progression of cancer and forecasting a prognosis.

Blood work provides essential information about the body’s overall condition from a metabolic standpoint. These tests can help measure inflammation and evaluate the state of the internal organs, so we can assess which therapies are appropriate and/or contraindicated. Cancer often exists in conjunction with other disease processes (kidney disease, liver disease, anemia), and identifying these comorbidities can help us formulate a holistic treatment plan.

The liquid biopsy test involves testing a blood sample to identify the cancer type, and it is currently under development.

Oncology Standard of Care

The oncology standard of care for pets generally includes these treatments:


Veterinary chemotherapy is well-documented and continues to develop rapidly. In veterinary oncology, the philosophy of chemotherapy is to use the lowest effective dose. This contrasts with the human medicine approach of using the largest dose the patient can tolerate. Using the lowest effective dose in veterinary medicine helps us maintain quality of life for our patients.


Pets with cancer requiring radiation are referred to a radiation oncology expert. To optimize the results of radiation, we can prescribe metabolic and integrative therapies before and after radiation treatment.


Surgical oncology involves removing cancerous tissue via surgery. In some cases, solid tumors can be cured with advanced surgical techniques. Regardless, we can work to optimize the patient’s metabolic health and minimize future cancers and other diseases.

Metabolic Therapies

Our oncology specialists subscribe to the metabolic theory of cancer, and making adjustments to support a healthy metabolism in pets. With the metabolic theory, we determine that:

  • Early cancers can come and go, and spontaneously regress
  • Established cancers can remain dormant
  • Changing the terrain may prevent cancer progression, and even contribute to cancer regression
  • Manipulating the microenvironment can and will halt or slow progression and even reverse tumor growth

Our oncology department employs the following metabolic therapies to improve health and slow cancer growth.

Your pet’s diet is the cornerstone of their health and the easiest dial to move towards improving their health. VHA uses all-natural, fresh or raw food diets in a low-carb or ketogenic formula to achieve and maintain metabolic flexibility. Intermittent fasting is also an easy and important metabolic tool to implement, especially when a pet is receiving chemotherapy or metabolic treatments.

Immunotherapy uses your pet’s own immune system to fight and destroy cancer cells. A healthy immune system recognizes and destroys abnormal cells every day. The most common form of immunotherapy is mistletoe therapy. T-cell therapy and cancer vaccines are also a part of immunotherapy.

The main goal of using off-label drugs is to disrupt the metabolic pathways of cancer cells. This restricts the overall ability of cancer cells to use energy. By starving the cancer cells of energy substrates, treatment may reduce the cancer cells’ capacity to defend themselves against chemotherapy and radiation. Off-label drugs may also be able to enable a process called “apoptosis,” which allows chemotherapy and radiation to kill cancer cells more effectively. These modalities work synergistically with a ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting.

High dose intravenous vitamin C infusions are a safe and supportive treatment for reducing inflammation. This therapy also improves symptoms related to antioxidant deficiency, diseases processes, and side effects of standard cancer treatments. Intravenous administration will achieve targeted blood serum levels that are impossible with oral administration. Therefore, it must be given intravenously to be effective.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) enables oxygen-rich blood plasma to infuse tissue, reducing inflammation and stimulating cellular regeneration.

Integrative Therapies

Below are the integrative therapies our hospital offers in conjunction with metabolic therapies and standard of care for our cancer patients.

Gut Microbiome

Recent research has found that the microbiome is essential in shaping the development of innate and adaptive immunity. In turn, the immune system shapes the microbiome. Testing and supporting a healthy gut microbiome is a critical step for metabolic and immune health.

Herbs and Supplements

Herbs and supplements have a long, rich history in helping to reverse disease processes and achieve optimal health.

Environmental Factors

Our pets are exposed to many toxins in their environment that can have detrimental effects to their health over time. Try minimizing your pet’s exposure to smoke, cleaning chemicals, lawn chemicals, plastic bowls, plastic chew toys, contaminated water sources, pollutants, and non-organic foods.

Emotional Health Plays a Role in Cancer Treatment, Too

The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial, dynamic relationship between people and animals influenced by behaviors essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes emotional, psychological, and physical interactions with people, other animals, and the environment. Our dog and cat family members often absorb our emotional energy, and bringing awareness to this dynamic can foster a healthier exchange of well-being.

Here are some ways to improve your pet’s emotional health.

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Two of the easiest ways to evoke well-being are developing intentional diet practices, and exercise practices. Our health also responds to our circadian rhythm. Creating scheduled sleep times in alignment with sunrise and sunset can have a greater impact. Turning off electronics and screens 2 hours before bedtime can also keep you and your pet in a more balanced state.


It might seem strange to prescribe meditation for your pet, but it is possible! You can spend some quiet time with your companion in nature, and they will receive the same benefits that meditation can provide. Take a daily nature walk or sit quietly under a tree, or by the lake or ocean. Our dog park here at VHA provides plenty of opportunities for pet parents to enjoy nature.


Our pets give us an opportunity to connect with others. Reach out to a pet cancer support group, or visit our Dog Dayz Café (opening Fall 2022) to meet with fellow animal lovers.

What to Expect Next

Did your pet recently receive a cancer diagnosis? Are you looking to pursue treatment? Ask your primary veterinarian for a referral to VHA. Once they submit the referral to us, our team will gather your pet’s medical records and any additional information they need. Then, we will call you to set up an appointment.

If your pet is not seeing a veterinarian at the moment, you can call us at (863) 324-3340 and we’ll help you get established as a patient. Let us know in advance if you have pet insurance. Our hospital accepts CareCredit and Trupanion.

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