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Q&A With Dr. Alice Villalobos, DVM, FNAP

We're pleased to share this interview between our Advisory Board member, Dr. Alice Villalobos and our Board Member, Denise Fleck regarding geriatric oncology.

GREY MUZZLE:   Dr. Villalobos, was there a single moment in your childhood, Veterinary School or what was it that sent you on the path of specializing in Geriatric Oncology?

DR. VILLALOBOS:  Yes!  When I was in the second or third grade, a stray black puppy came into our yard. He was very itchy and had inflamed skin. My mom allowed me to take him to the local veterinary hospital. The doctor took a sample from his skin and showed me the mange mites under the microscope. I asked how much money it would cost and he took off his glasses and said about $30.00. I knew it would be too much money for my family. It was at that moment that I decided to be a veterinarian so I could take care of my own pets. 

GREY MUZZLE:  Yes, it seems that many that find ourselves on the path of helping animals have a childhood story that sent us in that direction. Please tell us about your current canine/feline family, feel free to mention the humans too of course...

DR. VILLALOBOS:  I have been married to Ira Lifland for over 35 years and we are on our 4th generation of dogs and our 3rd generation of cats. Right now we have a one year old English Cream Golden retriever named Shelby and a 3.5 year old Norwich Terrier named Maddie.   Maddie is my first lap dog, and I am crazy about her! We also have an African tortoise named Sulchy and 2 calico cats that we adopted from the Peter Zippi Fund for Animals, a non profit rescue organization that I started in 1977. The PZF volunteer club has helped over 15,000 animals, mostly cats. 

GREY MUZZLE:  Wow!  How awesome to have started a non-profit on top of all your other contributions to the animal world!  Could you please now share a little about the 2nd edition release of "Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology: Honoring the Animal-Human Bond." Who is this book for?  It's written for professionals but in lay-terms that pet parents can garner help from? 

DR. VILLALOBOS:  This book was originally written for concerned dog and cat owners who want to know more about detecting and treating cancer in their older pets. Iowa State Press recruited me for a year to write the book and agreed that we would target pet owners.  Then they sold to Blackwell Publishing, a British publisher of textbooks. They wanted me to "ratchet up" the language for veterinary students and practicing veterinarians. I told them that I want this book to remain readable for pet owners, and that I wanted to keep all the definitions and explanations in the text. As a result, this book is unique in that it appeals to all levels of pet caregivers, all levels of the veterinary team, and to every class of veterinary students, instructors, and practicing clinicians."    

GREY MUZZLE:  It's wonderful that so many can garner information from it to help the animals in their lives. Do you have a favorite case study or two that you'd like to share?

DR. VILLALOBOS:  There are over 100 real-life patients followed in this book. One case, about an overweight, 15-year-old, Golden Retriever,named Pumpkin comes to mind. She was diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph glands and, with treatment and my immuno-nutrition program, Pumpkin lived to be almost 18 years old!

GREY MUZZLE:  Well that certainly has to make you feel like you are doing the work you were intended to do! Where can we get our paws on it?


GREY MUZZLE:  Is there anything else you'd like to share?

DR. VILLALOBOS:  People who love their pets continue to love them even more as they age, yet so many of my consultations find caregivers distraught because they did not know that their older dog was developing cancer right under their watchful and loving eyes. They regretted not knowing more about what was going with their geriatric grey muzzle dog regarding cancer or what to do about it. This book provides the answers to cancers in grey muzzle dogs and old cats. Some pet lovers get the book, read it, and then give a copy to their local veterinary practice so they will be aware of our philosophy and be on the same page!"  

GREY MUZZLE:  Well, we know you know your stuff and that this book is going to help so many humans help their furry family members.  Thank you for taking the time to chat with us and share this great work!  

About the Contributor: Alice Villalobos, DVM, is President Emeritus of the Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics, a past President of the American Association of Human Animal Bond Veterinarians, Fellow Emeritus of the National Academies of Practices, a Founding Member of the Veterinary Cancer Society and recipient of many awards for her pioneering work in cancer and end of life care for animals. She created the H5M2 Quality of LIfe Scale, which wentviral all over the world. She is Director of Pawspice (an end-of-life care consultation service) and Animal Oncology Consultation Service in Hermosa Beach and Woodland Hills, California, USA.