BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A cancer diagnosis is always difficult to hear, even when the patient has four legs and a tail.
"It was very tough when we got the news. I've had Gino since he was a puppy," dog owner Travis Euggino said.
The LSU veterinary school is home to the only pet cancer center in the state. The center treats 300 to 400 pets a year with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery or a combination of treatments.
Oncologist Dr. Bonnie Boudreaux said cancer is one of the most common diseases for dogs and cats over the age of 10.
The vet school's most famous patient, LSU live mascot Mike the Tiger, was recently diagnosed with a rare tumor. His radiation treatment requires advanced technology available at the Mary Bird Perkins - Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center.
While the school has a linear accelerator for radiation treatment, the stereotactic radiotherapy machine being used for Mike's treatment is a piece of technology the school does not yet have.
However, that will change in the coming year. Boudreaux said the school is set to receive a new machine that will have the same capabilities as what's used at Mary Bird Perkins. She expects the school will be able to offer the same treatments by spring of 2017.
Boudreaux said treating cancer in pets is very similar to treating humans.
"It's taking into account what's going on with the pet, their individual tumor type as well as what the goals are for the owner. We really try to take an integrated approach and individualize patient care to optimize the result of the pet," Boudreaux said.
Treatment can be expensive and varies depending on the procedure. Boudreaux said a full course of radiation, which is about 20 treatments, costs around $6,000.
Euggino said he didn't hesitate when given the option. More than a year after his 12-year-old Australian Shepard was diagnosed, he's still going strong.
"He's a happy pup, and he's here with me today," Euggino said.
Judy Plaisance agrees. Her toy Manchester terrier, Abby, was diagnosed with Lymphoma in 2013. Abby underwent several rounds of chemo and lived three more healthy years before she finally lost her battle with the disease at 7 years old. Plaisance said she was active and happy right up until the end.
"It gave us three years with her that we would not have had. My husband and I both know it's because of this place," Plaisance said.