I want to let everyone know about a charity that I volunteer with. They are the Animal Cancer Therapy Subsidization Society or ACTSS. They are an Alberta run charity that was started by local veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Stelfox who has a special interest in oncology (or cancer treatment). Their primary goal is to help subsidize pets with their cancer treatments. Cancer is something that we unfortunately diagnose quite frequently as veterinarians. From simple skin lumps to large masses on the spleen, some form of cancer is very common in our dogs and cats as they get older. Fortunately there have been many advances in veterinary medicine that have shown us ways to cure or at least slow the growth of many types of cancer. These treatments can include surgery, chemotherapy and there is even the Western Veterinary Cancer Centre in Calgary now that does radiation therapy on pets. Unlike our experiences with humans and cancer treatments, dogs and cats tolerate these treatments quite differently and often have very few side effects. In fact for many of them, there are no side effects at all! They just continue on acting like they always have but this time with their cancer under control sometimes temporarily or sometimes permanently. While all the advances have helped extend the lives of many dogs and cats, they do often involve very costly medications or specialty equipment for treatment that many pet owners find difficult to afford.
This is where ACTSS comes in! After the diagnosis and treatment plan for a particular cancer has been made, pet owners can apply to ACTSS for subsidy to help with treatment costs associated with the particular cancer. There are forms to be filled out by both the owner and the veterinarians involved. The sooner in the process that owners apply the better, however, only cancer treatments are covered not diagnostic tests such as bloodwork or x-rays that may need to be done prior. The cases that apply are reviewed every month by a NEEDS committee that decides if a pet can qualify for subsidy. This has been my role with ACTSS as I am the head of one of the NEEDS committees and review cases 3-4 times a year. They try to keep the process as objective as possible. The committee takes into consideration not only the financial need of the pet owner but also the prognosis following the cancer therapy, the bond with the pet and the overall quality of life for the animal. The amount of money the committee can disperse to pets in need does depend on how many funds ACTSS has available at the time as well!
Please consider donating to ACTSS this year. They have many fundraisers and we are currently selling their beautiful calendars. Check out their website for more information on donating or on applying if needed. www.actssalberta.ca
By Dr. Jessica Wilson