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Grant provides lifesaving pet cancer treatments at UW School of Veterinary Medicine

December 29, 2021 By Meghan Lepisto

When Kiki, a daring 11-year-old black cat, became less bold and outgoing this January and started repeatedly sneezing, his family knew something was the matter.

“For some cats, you might know they do not feel good if they are not eating,” says Hiedi Hall, who found Kiki on her driveway more than a decade ago as a tiny kitten, nursed him through infancy with supplemental formula and has loved him since. “With Kiki, we know he is not feeling good if he is not biting or kicking butt!”

Kiki during an appointment at UW Veterinary Care, where he received radiation therapy treatment for periocular lymphoma. Photo by Denise Garlow/UW School of Veterinary Medicine

Several veterinary appointments later, Kiki was diagnosed with periocular lymphoma. This type of lymphoma (a cancer of cells that are part of the body’s immune system) originates in spaces around the eye. For Kiki, the disease began as a mass above his left eye and extended into his nasal cavity. Clinicians recommended radiation therapy to fight the disease.

Hall was devastated by the diagnosis, though hopeful that Kiki’s no-fear demeanor might help him through cancer treatment. But another obstacle emerged: finances. Hall had already withdrawn all she could from her 401K retirement plan to support Kiki’s medical care.

Then, at an appointment at UW Veterinary Care, the teaching hospital of the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, Hall learned of the Petco Love and Blue Buffalo Pet Cancer Treatment Fund. In fall 2020, the UW SVM was one of 11 of the nation’s top veterinary oncology universities awarded a $75,000 grant from Petco Love for pet cancer treatment funds.

The Petco Love and Blue Buffalo Pet Cancer Treatment Fund subsidizes the cost of cancer treatments for dogs and cats, supporting pet parents who otherwise could not afford the cost of treating pets diagnosed with cancer. Funds from the $75,000 grant to the UW School of Veterinary Medicine were distributed to clients on a first-come, first-served basis of up to $4,000 per client. The funds have now been fully dispersed.

“Pet cancer is the number one disease-related killer of dogs and cats, and a devastating diagnosis for pet parents who cannot afford treatment for their pets,” said Petco Love President Susanne Kogut. “With all the strides being made in the veterinary oncology field increasing treatment options for pets, our goal is to make these lifesaving treatments available to more pets and their pet parents.”

Kiki rests on the shoulder of Hiedi Hall ahead of an appointment at UW Veterinary Care. Photo by Denise Garlow/UW School of Veterinary Medicine

Ruthanne Chun, a clinical professor and section head of Medical Oncology at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine, adds, “The support provided by this fund allows us to offer assistance to clients with financial need. The ability to maintain that human-animal bond and offer meaningful hope is priceless.”

The National Cancer Institute Center for Cancer Research estimates six million dogs and nearly the same number of cats are impacted by cancer each year.

In March of this year, Kiki received two weeks of radiation therapy at UW Veterinary Care with clinician Steven Moirano, a resident with the Radiation Oncology Service. Kiki had his six-month checkup in late September and is doing well, with no signs of recurrence.

“The grant we received was an absolute miracle,” Hall says. “People cannot imagine how just the smallest donations can add up and change a family’s life so much.”

“We are so blessed to not only have more time with Kiki but to have more quality time with him as he is in remission,” she adds. “I could never express the amount of gratitude for the grant and the caring, talented team at UW treating Kiki.”