Providing a Lifeline for Cancer Patients

For Immediate Release

Petco Foundation and Blue Buffalo Cancer Treatment Support Fund benefits oncology patients and clients in need at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine

Ruby Hebert

Ruby Hebert

Barkley with Dr. Jayme Looper

Barkley with Dr. Jayme Looper

Angel with Dr. Merkle

Angel with Dr. Jennifer Merkle

Baton Rouge, LA--Learning that a pet has cancer can be a sad, frightening, and overwhelming experience. But when a pet owner is unable to cover the costs of treatment, it can be heart-breaking. Thanks to a $200,000 grant to the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, the Petco Foundation and Blue Buffalo make it possible to offer financial support for qualified pet owners who otherwise would not be able to afford lifesaving treatments for their pets.

“This grant is a tremendous gift to our clients and patients. Many life-saving treatments are expensive, even though we try to make them as affordable as possible. These funds are a game changing option for clients faced with making difficult decisions for their sick pets,” said Dr. Jayme Looper, DVM, ACVR, associate professor of veterinary radiation oncology.

Ruby Hebert

When Cheryl and Ricky Hebert of Houma, Louisiana, noticed their dog, Ruby, wobbling as she walked, head tilted, they thought was an ear infection. It turned out to be cancer, a brain tumor.

“We were so hurt. Ruby is like a child to us. We were prepared to do whatever we had to do to help Ruby,” Hebert said of her 10-year-old terrier mix.

Treatment costs were estimated at approximately $8,000. That’s when Dr. Looper informed the Heberts of the Petco/Blue Buffalo Cancer Treatment Support Fund.

“I literally cried when Dr. Looper told us about the fund. Between the $2,700-3,000 we received from that and our daughter pitching in, we were able to handle the rest. We are so appreciative of all the LSU vet hospital people did for us. Dr. Looper is awesome! She’s so sympathetic, calm and kind, and answers all of our questions,” Cheryl said, adding that she and her husband once sold their vehicles to be able to afford treatment for their diabetic Labrador retriever.

Now, Ruby is doing well 15 months out from her last treatment.

“Ruby has resumed her normal life. If something would’ve happened to Ruby, my husband would’ve cried like a baby—they’re that close,” Cheryl said.

The fund was established in 2019 and provides up to 80 percent of the total cost of cancer treatment, up to $5,000 per pet, including diagnostic tests, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and other medications involved in cancer therapy. Clients who demonstrate financial need through an application process must have a pet whose quality of life would benefit from cancer treatment leading to a favorable long-term prognosis.  

Applications are considered on a case-by-case basis. Initial tests to determine the diagnosis are not available for funds.

Barkley Stites

Barkley, a nine-year-old Australian terrier, was a regular at LSU SVM Dermatology service. His owner, Kathy Stites, remembers bringing him in for seasonal allergies last summer and Sara Ramos, DVM, noticing the shape of his body was amiss; his shoulders were different sizes. Dr. Ramos called in an LSU SVM oncologist to consult that same day. Tests confirmed cancer, liposarcoma, and surgery was recommended.

“The estimated cost for surgery and treatment exceeded $12,000. I wanted him to at least have a chance. He’s a great little dog. I just love him,” Stites said of Barkley, who she adopted in 2013 from the Baton Rouge Animal Control Center.

Barkley had surgery in July 2019. Through a combination of a $5,000 grant from the Petco/Blue Buffalo Cancer Treatment Support Fund and a line of credit, Stites was able to fund surgery and treatment for Barkley, who is now doing well eight months out from completing radiation treatment.

“Everything with the treatment went really well. I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing better for Barkley than LSU. On the oncology team were Shay Bordelon, RTV, (radiation oncology), Dr. Jayme Looper and Dr. Jennifer Merkle in radiation oncology. Dr. Csomos and Dr. McCarthy were the surgeons. I feel so fortunate to have found the School of Veterinary Medicine. If I hadn’t, I would have lost my dog by Christmas, and Mardi Gras would have been really painful. He’s been a very expensive dog, but he’s worth it,” Stites said.

The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine Cancer Treatment Unit treats approximately 500 new patients, mostly dogs and cats, annually for cancer-related conditions. The facility has two major service units—medical oncology (chemotherapy) and radiation oncology. Each of these units is designed to diagnose and treat veterinary cancer patients with the most advanced treatments and technology available. The oncology service works from a team approach, so a patient requiring chemotherapy and radiation therapy has the benefit of being evaluated by specialists, who then design a treatment protocol tailored to their individual needs.

Since the grant was established just over a year ago, 14 dogs have been treated utilizing the cancer treatment support funds.

Angel Ainsworth

Angel, a 10-year-old mixed breed, is another beneficiary of the fund. Angel’s owner, Sarah Ainsworth, brought her dog to the SVM for surgery on soft-tissue sarcoma in August 2019, followed by radiation therapy through October 2019.

When Ainsworth, then a student at the SVM, learned that Angel’s surgery and treatment was estimated at approximately $8,000, she was devastated. She applied for and received a $5,000 grant from the Petco/Blue Buffalo fund.

“It meant I could treat her. Without that grant, it would’ve been out of reach. Thank you for saving my baby. I’ve had her since I was 16 years old,” said Ainsworth, who graduated from the SVM with her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree.

Now, Angel is thriving seven months after completing treatment. Angel is back to her normal self, playing again, according to Ainsworth.

“These funds have allowed us to save many lives over the past couple of years,” Looper said.

For further information about the SVM Cancer Treatment Unit and applying for funding, go to our oncology website or, email lsuoncology@lsu.edu, or call the SVM Small Animal Hospital at (225) 578-9600.

Media Contact

Ginger Guttner, APR

Communications Manager

LSU School of Veterinary Medicine

Baton Rouge, LA 70803

225-578-9922 office

225-772-8957 cell

ginger@lsu.edu