BACKGROUND: External radiation therapy (RT) has been available for small animals in Sweden since 2006. This study was designed to obtain information on owner experiences and perceptions related to RT of cancer in their dogs. Another survey was used to determine the attitudes about use of RT in a group of Swedish veterinarians. Their responses were analyzed and compared to their level of knowledge of oncology and RT. METHODS: Owners of all dogs (n = 23) who had undergone RT for malignancy at Jönköping Small Animal Hospital between March 2006 to September 2007 were interviewed. A questionnaire was given to a selected group of veterinarians. RESULTS: All 23 owners responded. All owners thought that their dog did well during RT and most that their dog was also fine during the following phase when acute RT-related skin reactions occur and heal. Three owners stated that their dog had pain that negatively impacted quality of life because of radiation dermatitis. Five owners reported that RT positively impacted quality of life of the dog during the first weeks after RT because palliation was achieved. The owners were not disturbed by the efforts required of them. All but one owner (22 of 23) stated that they would make the same decision about RT again if a similar situation occurred. The most important factor for this decision was the chance to delay occurrence of tumour-related discomfort. The chance for cure was of less importance but still essential, followed by expected side effects. Time commitments, travel, number of treatments required and financial cost; all had low impact. The veterinarian survey showed that less background knowledge of small animal oncology/RT was associated with more negative expectations of RT for small animals. CONCLUSION: The results show that for these owners, RT was a worthwhile treatment modality and that the discomfort for the dog was manageable and acceptable relative to the benefits. Improved continuing education about small animal RT in Sweden will likely result in increased evidence-based and positive treatment recommendations concerning RT by veterinarians.