A chemotherapy to treat cancer is also possible for animals.
Whether chemotherapy is useful depends on the type of tumour. There are tumours that respond very well to the therapy and other tumours where we know this is unlikely. To find this out, consultation with a specialist (small animal oncologist) is necessary. Here, all treatment options are discussed and a plan is drawn up jointly.
Side effects of chemotherapy
Unlike in humans, our pets in most cases show only weak side effects of the treatment, if any. This is because we use much lower dosages than in human medicine. The animal’s well-being is always the priority in veterinary oncology.
In some cases, loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhoea can occur in the first 3 days after the treatment. In most cases, these side effects are mild and disappear on their own.
Depending on the tumour type, there are medications that can be given intravenously. However, medications in tablet form are now available also.
Your pet’s hospitalisation should be as short and pleasant as possible. It is usually not necessary for your pet to remain in the clinic a long time. An infusion usually takes 20 - 30 minutes.
Risks for humans
This is a legitimate questions, especially when children, pregnant women or nursing mothers are in contact with the dog. Nevertheless, there is only a minimal risk for owners. A few chemotherapy drugs are excreted in the urine or faeces after 2-3 days. Disposing of the faeces and urine with gloves as normal is enough to prevent contamination. Stroking, playing with and feeding the animal are not dangerous.
If your vet gives you medications, these must be handled only with gloves and they must not be divided. Drug capsules must not be opened.
There is no generally applicable yes or no. Your vet is happy to discuss this question with you for your pet’s benefit, to advise you and explain everything.
© AniCura, Dr. Alexandra Rose