A holistic approach and teamwork – the secrets to oncology care

Onc montage

By Head of Service, Michael Macfarlane

I was recently asked to write an article on what makes the oncology service at NDSR stand out. Initially, it seemed like the right thing to focus on was being at the forefront of innovative treatments and being involved in multiple clinical trials. But, whilst this is a crucial part of what we do, on reflection it’s not what makes us special.

Holistic Care

What makes oncology at NDSR special is our attention to detail and our focus on achieving the very best outcome for every pet that we see.

Oncology textbook and telemedics can give a list of options and average associated outcomes. But every one of the eight members of our team can take a huge amount of information, so much more than the cancer diagnosis itself, to make a bespoke plan for ongoing care. We create a calm and safe environment and allow however much time is needed to do this.

Common examples include:

  • Helping an owner trust their gut feeling when knowing if pursuing palliative treatment is the best thing to do. We take time to discuss all of the options regarding analgesia, quality of life monitoring and even logistics of euthanasia.
  • Recommending a CHOP chemotherapy course for a dog with lymphoma. This isn’t cutting edge, but our experience, skill and intuition mean we know which dogs might need a slight dose reduction, more supportive therapy, or even the addition of extra drugs to achieve our goal of prolonging a good quality of life.
  • Formulating a plan of shared care with the referring vets to minimise travel for an anxious dog, knowing that we will be at the end of the phone and revisits to NDSR can be planned if needed.


The other crucial thing about the oncology service at NDSR is we are a team.  We laugh and cry together and are extremely supportive of one another. We are all very different people but we share the same values and work in harmony. This has huge relevance to the service that we offer. We learn from each other and the difficult cases we see.

“A consultation with one of us may actually be a consultation with all eight”

The same is true of the wider hospital team. NDSR is a family where the patients we see so often benefit from the recommendations given by our surgeons, ophthalmologists and dermatologist. This harmony and breadth of specialist services sets us apart and makes a holistic approach to care possible.

Our team includes two oncology nurses, Debbie and Anita. They are the conductors of the service, facilitating and contributing to what we do with enormous talent. This makes all the difference, from something as simple as making sure an anxious dog is given the space and time (and food-based bribery…) it needs to settle in with us, to spending half an hour talking through a detailed care plan for a recuperating patient being discharged.

“I am incredibly proud to be part of the oncology service at NDSR. We are able to see your cases here, but also to provide advice or answer questions about the service.”

Case Advice or Arranging a Referral

If you are a veterinary professional and would like to discuss a case with one of our team, or require pre-referral advice about a patient, please call 01883 741449Alternatively, to refer a case, please use the online referral form