How a Veterinary Social Worker Can Help Owners of Pets with Cancer

Author: Christina Bach, MBE, LCSW, OSW-C
Last Reviewed:

Veterinary social work (VSW) is a newer specialized field of social work practice. Many larger, academic veterinary schools and some veterinary clinics employ VSWs to assist clients who are coping with illness, accidents, and behavior issues in their companion animals.

There are four main areas of focus in veterinary social work

  • Animal-assisted activities and therapy
  • The link between domestic violence and animal abuse
  • Compassion fatigue and self-care for veterinary professionals 
  • Loss, grief, and bereavement

Having a companion animal who has been diagnosed with cancer can bring about a wide range of emotions. 

Veterinary social workers can help you navigate cancer-related treatment options, financial concerns, communicating with the veterinary care team, and options for end-of-life care. They can help you cope with the emotional reactions you may experience as a result of your pet's illness, diagnosis, treatment, and/or prognosis. VSWs have training in working with families and can provide counseling and education to help you talk with your children and other family members about what is happening with your pet. Finally, VSWs provide individual and group counseling and support after the death of a pet.

Ask your veterinarian if they have a social worker on staff or available by consultation/referral.

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