VCA SouthPaws Veterinary Specialists & Emergency Center

Radiation treatment

Radiation therapy is a local treatment option for many types of cancer. It plays a crucial role in the treatment of over 50% of human cancer patients. We are extremely fortunate to be able to provide this high level of care to our patients at VCA SouthPaws Veterinary Specialists & Emergency Center.

For our purposes, the term radiation simply implies the transmission of packets or photons of energy through the air and into the body, much like x-rays. These photons cannot be seen or felt, nor are they radioactive. The photons pass through the body causing damage to the genetic material inside the cells being treated. This damage can lead to cell death within hours to weeks after the treatment is given.

Radiation therapy is administered in multiple treatments known as fractions. Each treatment is a 'fraction' of the total dose prescribed for a particular patient. Fractionation reduces the severity of side effects to normal cells, enhances the killing effect on cancer cells, and allows a higher total dose to be given. The dose prescription and fractionation protocol are not arbitrary. They are based on sound radiobiological principles and must be strictly adhered to in order to achieve the goals of therapy. This includes making sure your pet does not miss any treatments and completes the scheduled number of fractions.

Specifically the number of fractions will vary from 1 to 25 depending on the cancer, area being treated and treatment related goals. For each fraction patients will need to be placed under general anesthesia as they must remain motionless for correct tumor targeting. However the duration of anesthesia is only several minutes and because the act of radiation is painless, long acting pain medication is not required.

Radiation treatment protocols can be divided into two broad categories, definitive and palliative. The goal of definitive radiation is to deliver as much radiation as safely possible to achieve a maximum tumor cell kill. Palliative radiation, on the other hand is a much more conservative approach to radiation therapy where the goal is not necessarily to kill tumors cells but rather improve a pets quality of life. Depending on the location of the tumor and treatment goals, side effects from radiation therapy can occur. In general they are limited to the area that is being treated and range from very minimal to severe. Your veterinarian can treat your pet for side effects that may occur.



General Practice

We have over 600 animal hospitals in 41 states and 4 Canadian provinces that are staffed by more than 3,000 fully-qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 400 being board-certified specialists.

The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments such as wellness, spay/neuter, advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), internal medicine, oncology, ophthalmology, dermatology, cardiology, neurology, boarding, and grooming. Services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

Find a VCA General Care Animal Hospital near you:


See all VCA Animal Hospitals >


Emergency Care


24/7/365, if your pet has a medical emergency, you can find us at the following address:

TEL: 703-752-9100

Click here for directions to our location.

VCA SouthPaws Veterinary Specialists & Emergency Center is a fully-equipped 24/7/365 emergency hospital serving pets and their people in Northern Virginia and the greater Washington DC metro area. If you suspect your pet is having a medical crisis, our experienced team of veterinarians, technicians and assistants are here to assist you.

Our Emergency and Critical Care units can assist in all of the following situations requiring immediate medical attention: Auto accidents, traumatic injuries (fractures, bites, burns, lacerations, wounds), respiratory emergencies (choking, difficulty breathing), vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty urinating/defecating, shock, loss of consciousness, dizziness, staggering, tremors, seizures, paralysis, toxic reactions, poison ingestion, labor and delivery problems, blood in urine or feces, swollen, hard, painful abdomen, heatstroke.