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Chemotherapy for Dogs

What is chemotherapy for dogs?

Chemotherapy can be a daunting treatment for us to consider after a cancer diagnosis in our pets but understanding why and how chemotherapy works will make the decision to treat or not much easier. There are many forms of cancer and it can present in many different ways. Chemotherapy is a treatment that may be used on its own, or in conjunction with other treatments such as surgery. Chemotherapy drugs attack rapidly dividing cells in the body. Different drugs attack cells in various ways such as damaging a cell’s DNA or stopping a cells ability to divide. Since the drugs cannot differentiate between healthy cells and cancer cells, side effects associated with chemotherapy must be taken into consideration.

Will chemotherapy make my pet sick?

If you know about human chemotherapy treatments and their side effects, then you may be worried that your pet will spend their treatment feeling unwell. In comparison to humans, pets generally experience fewer and less severe side effects because veterinary medicine uses lower doses of the chemotherapy agents.

What are some common side effects of chemotherapy for dogs?

Common tissues that are damaged by the chemotherapy drugs include the gastrointestinal tract, bone marrow and hair follicles.

Gastrointestinal side effects are generally mild but may include loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. These side effects usually self-resolve but may need to be treated with medications at home, and in severe cases, may require hospitalization.

Bone marrow suppression can result in low white blood cell counts which can leave your pet more susceptible to infection. It can also because low platelet counts that may present as unusual bleeding and bruising. Red blood cell counts may be lowered as well, resulting in lethargy and paleness of the mucous membranes. These side effects are temporary. If your pet is having chemotherapy, their blood will be closely monitored throughout the treatment and any changes to doses or intervals between treatments will be made as necessary to minimize the effect on the bone marrow.

If your pet will be treated with chemotherapy drugs that are known to commonly cause side effects, there may be medications prescribed to prevent them in advance of therapy. The severe side effects described above seldom occur, but your veterinarian will give you instructions on what to do if they do occur.

What is the cost of canine chemotherapy?

If you have any questions or concerns about chemotherapy, please do not hesitate to call Kamloops Veterinary Clinic.

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