What Is Stereotactic Radiotherapy (SRT/SRS)?

Since the 1960s, veterinarians have utilized radiation therapy to treat various forms of cancer in pets. As therapies evolve and change, Stereotactic Radiation Therapy (SRS/SRT) is a relatively new procedure that directly delivers radiation to the tumor. SRS/SRT can refer to either Stereotactic Radiation Therapy or Stereotactic Radiosurgery, both similar procedures in the cancer treatment industry. SRS/SRT is unique because it administers high doses of radiation with a minimal negative impact on nearby tissue and organs. 

SRS has proven effective when treating cancer in humans and is now taking veterinary medicine by storm. Originally used to treat brain tumors, veterinarians have deemed it one of the most effective, targeted radiation treatments for overall bodily use.

How Is Stereotactic Radiotherapy Performed?

Examination on white and black dog

When compared to other cancer treatments, SRT/SRS can be performed in one to three sessions, versus traditional radiation therapy which can take 15 to 30 separate sessions. Before the veterinarian performs the treatment, they will need to locate and determine the size of the tumor. Unfortunately, SRT/SRS is typically not used for cancers that have spread through the lymph nodes or blood, because that type of cancer is often difficult to target. A CT scan is usually ordered a few days prior to the treatment day.

After the details of the growth are assessed, it is targeted rapidly and at a higher dose than typical radiation therapy. Depending on the size and location of the mass, SRS sessions can take between 15 to 30 minutes. The goal of the SRT/SRS treatment sessions is to eliminate the entity, slow its overall growth, and provide the dog or cat relief from cancer-related symptoms. Since SRT/SRS is non-surgical, beams of radiation are utilized to treat the cancerous tumor. Your dog will be immobilized so they can target the mass effectively and precisely.

Is Every Pet With Cancer a Candidate for SRT?

Lady makes sure her dog is healthy

Like all cancer therapies, candidates are determined based on the tumor type, stage, size, and anatomic location. SRS/SRT is typically not recommended for pets with systemic cancer such as blood-based cancers. This new therapy is most appropriate for pets who have targetable masses. We spoke to Ben Chiswick, Director of Marketing at PetCure Oncology, and he explained what cancers are best treated with SRS/SRT. 

“Stereotactic radiation can be used to address many tumor types, including brain tumors, nasal tumors, mast cell tumors, and many kinds of sarcomas and carcinomas. Any patient with a solid tumor that has not spread throughout the body is a candidate for this kind of treatment. SRS/SRT is a great alternative to surgery, especially for complex or risky surgical situations, because the radiation can precisely target the tumor without any incision,“ states Chiswick, “SRS/SRT can be used in conjunction with other cancer treatments as well, including post-surgery or in combination with chemotherapy.”

PetCure Oncology aims to make human-caliber cancer care technology available for pets. As the largest network of specialized radiation therapy treatment centers in the U.S., they have seven clinics and a robust telehealth infrastructure to reach pets across the nation. They understand that pets are family, so they recruit only the best radiation oncologists in the field.

PetCure prides itself on its support network. In 2017, they founded a team of five to help guide pet owners through the cancer treatment process. This cloud-based Pet Advocate Team can help people understand the situation their pet is in, simplify confusing doctor lingo, and identify the right next steps. 

Chiswick explains, “ We advise people to reach out to our team if they have any questions related to pet cancer at all. The call is free. They’re just a wonderful group of experienced and compassionate professionals who can help you through tough times. For example, they can locate the nearest CT exam facility if an owner is having difficulty finding one near where they live. When we found a lump on my dog last year, I called them right away.”

 If you are interested in determining if your pet is a good candidate for SRS/SRT, schedule a consultation with a radiation oncologist at PetCure Oncology. At PetCure Oncology’s facilities, they utilize some of the most advanced veterinary technology in the industry. Feel free to give their Pet Advocate Team a call at 833-PET-HERO or visit their website to learn more about Stereotactic Radiation Therapy.

What Are the Benefits and Disadvantages of Stereotactic Radiotherapy?

Light brown Labrador takes a checkup

When it comes to developing new cancer therapies, researchers and doctors build upon old treatments to improve the overall experience and reduce side effects. Some of the benefits of stereotactic radiotherapy include:

  • Complete treatment in one to three sessions compared to traditional radiation therapies, which can take up to 30 sessions.
  • Sub-millimeter, targeted therapy that attacks specific tumor cells while leaving the healthy surrounding tissue largely intact.
  • Compared to traditional therapy, side effects are typically fewer and less severe with Stereotactic Radiation.
  • Tumors located near sensitive areas in the body like the spine or brain can be treated.
  • Each session usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes. The first session usually takes a bit longer.
  • No overnight hospital stays are required, which means your furry friend can return home to heal in the comfort of your own home.

Overall, Stereotactic Radiotherapy is less invasive and traumatic to the pet. Being able to preserve healthy tissue and go home after treatment are some of the most noticeable improvements in radiotherapy for pets. 

PetCure states, “Recovery after stereotactic is always case-specific and like any cancer treatment, a very small percentage of patients may not react to radiation therapy. However, our current reports show that most pets react well almost immediately following their procedure and many feel immediate relief of pressure around the tumor.” Chiswick adds, “We have seen pets wheeled into the clinic with absolutely no mobility and see them walk out on their own after their last treatment. That’s pretty amazing to say the least.”

Does Prudent Pet Insurance Cover Stereotactic Radiotherapy?

Husky and Vet check his condition together

At Prudent Pet, we aim to cover as many alternative therapies as possible. The answer is: Yes, stereotactic radiotherapy is covered as long as the owner enrolls in pet insurance prior to the dog or cat becoming ill. Even if your pet is prone to cancer but does not have the condition yet, Prudent Pet will never deny coverage. Unlike other types of pet insurance, Prudent Pet works with vets to ensure your pet is getting the coverage they need, even if it is a relatively new treatment option.

Prudent Pet was created by pet parents for pet parents, so we know you want the best for your furry friend. We are committed to helping you save money on vet bills and get trusted protection that fits your budget. If you’re interested, check out our covered therapies and get a FREE quote via our website or give us a call at 888-820-7739.

What are you waiting for? Enroll your dog or cat in pet insurance today.