Chemo killed my dog – Is it cruel to give a dog chemo?

Cancer patients and animals are treated with chemotherapy drugs that suppress the immune system. These drugs have different mechanisms of action. A chemotherapy medication may be injected, taken orally, or applied topically. Poisoning is more likely to occur with some medications than others.

Consult your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680) immediately if you observe your pet consuming chemotherapy drugs that are not meant for its use or consuming its own chemotherapy drugs in excess of the recommended dosage.

If these medications are dropped or spilled in the house, if they lick off the topical form after application, or if they chew into the medication container, the animal may be exposed to these medications.

The actions of chemotherapy drugs have changed over time, and some traditional forms are still used, but there are now new forms that have a wider margin of safety. Conventional chemotherapy drugs work by attacking and killing rapidly dividing cells. Because cancer cells tend to divide more rapidly than normal cells, chemotherapy drugs target them primarily.

Cancer cells, however, can be distinguished from healthy cells that divide rapidly, such as intestinal cells, hair, skin, and bone marrow. Toxic effects are therefore likely to occur in normal cells as well. In many modern forms of chemotherapy, cancer cells can be targeted to reduce or eliminate the risk of damaging healthy cells.

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Why Would My Dog Need It?

According to Dr. Lisa Barber, assistant professor of oncology and chemotherapy at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, chemotherapy should be used for cancers that have metastasized or are at high risk.

The type of chemotherapy to be used varies depending on the type of cancer and other factors, according to staff oncologist Joanne Intile at the East End Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center in Riverhead, N.Y. If it is a single tumor on the skin, she determines if she can perform surgery or if the dog does not qualify for surgery.

A doctor may recommend surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. A pathologist (a veterinarian) will examine the cells under a microscope after the tissue containing the cancerous cells is sent to a laboratory.

Pathologists will assess the edges of the cancerous tissue for signs of regeneration and grade cancer based on the likelihood of metastasizing. Barber said chemotherapy is often used to treat high-grade cancers, which are likely to metastasize.

As a result, chemotherapy for animals is less aggressive than for humans. A primary goal of chemotherapy for pets is to prolong their lives as much as possible while maintaining the best possible quality of life.

“We want a cure for our pets,” Intile said. There aren’t as many cures as we would like because we don’t treat them aggressively enough. Ultimately, it’s about the quality of their lives. As opposed to human oncology, this is a quality of life [treatment], not a life-at-all-costs approach.

Can a dog or cat be poisoned by chemotherapy drugs?

Initial signs of toxicity may not be apparent in pets. There are different signs for different types of drugs and species of pets. The most common sign is stomach upset. The pet may show signs of depression, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

The rapid onset of neurologic signs such as drunken gait, difficulty walking, weakness, tremors, and seizures may be caused by some drugs. A reduction in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets can result from damage to the rapidly dividing cells of the bone marrow.

Pets suffering from bone marrow problems may become lethargic, have a decreased appetite, develop fever, pale gums, weakness, a high heart rate, rapid breathing, bleeding, and bruising, as well as become susceptible to infection.

The urine may also be discolored or bloody. This can take a few days to weeks to manifest. In addition to the liver, kidneys, heart, pancreas, and lungs, other organs can also be damaged.

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Can chemotherapy kill a dog?

There is a theoretical possibility that chemotherapy could kill your dog. A person’s immune system can become so weak that it can no longer fight off disease as a result of dying too many healthy tissues or destroying too much healthy tissue.

Chemotherapy treatments aren’t always effective in dogs, and they can lead to additional complications. In addition to killing cancerous cells, chemotherapy destroys healthy cells in your dog’s body, causing organ failure.

Studies have shown that chemotherapy can worsen heart conditions if the pet already has one. How severe the condition is depends on the drug and how much is administered.

In addition to heart problems, chemotherapy can damage kidneys and livers. The drugs can worsen kidney or liver problems in your dog.

You may want to discuss what to expect during treatment with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian might be able to help if you ask specifically how the treatment will impact your dog’s health and quality of life.

Treating With Chemotherapy

There are few side effects associated with chemotherapy for dogs and cats. Several human friends and family members have experienced severe side effects from chemotherapy, and they have been hospitalized. Unfortunately, pets do not experience that.

Overall, veterinary chemotherapy patients experience very little toxicity. I have observed that approximately 80% of pets do not experience any side effects. There are very few mild to moderate side effects that last a few days, and cats are less likely to experience them than dogs.

Only 5% of chemotherapy patients experience serious side effects, such as inappetence, dehydration, vomiting, or diarrhea. Supportive care may be needed in these patients due to dehydration, infection, or sepsis. I’ve found that most of these patients can successfully receive the same medication again after a dose reduction and prophylactic medications.

Many owners are also relieved to learn that their pets do not lose their hair. The reason why alopecia (hair loss) happens is that chemotherapy agents target rapidly dividing cells, including hair follicles. Poodles, Scottish terriers, and West Highland white terriers are among some of the breeds that may be affected. Cats rarely develop alopecia, but they may lose their whiskers.

Chemotherapy may cause shaved areas on the pet to grow back more slowly (e.g., limb catheters, abdominal ultrasound). After the treatments are completed, hair and whiskers will regrow. Sometimes, hair grows back with a different texture or color, and hair coats in cats are typically softer and referred to as chemotherapy coats.

Pet owners should remember, and remind their clients, that pets are not concerned about cosmetic side effects, and these effects do not have an impact on quality of life. If possible, pet owners should be informed about the possible loss of whiskers and hair coats to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Cancer treatment is not a legally binding agreement. It is always my recommendation to my clients who are considering chemotherapy to let me give them one or two doses and see how the pet reacts. Most clients continue with treatment because they are so happy, and I can adjust the dose and other medications to ensure the quality of life during treatment.

I have heard from clients how much more energetic their pets are undergoing chemotherapy than they were six months or a year ago –before they had cancer and before they began receiving chemotherapy. The fact that most pets feel well during and after chemotherapy is quite remarkable.

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What is the cost of chemotherapy for dogs?

Depending on the frequency, duration, drugs used, the hospital, and geographic location, chemotherapy costs can vary greatly.

“A standard chemotherapy protocol at Tufts costs approximately $3,500 to $4,500. According to Barber, other clinics charge up to $10,000 for procedures. Madison Wisconsin Protocol, which consists of three drugs administered over a 25-week period, is commonly recognized as a standard treatment for this type of cancer. 

For more information on this type of chemotherapy, speak with your veterinarian if you think it could be right for your dog.

Intile said that the least expensive treatment would be about $30 per injection, but larger treatments involving many months and/or more frequent injections would cost into the thousands. We do not tell pet parents ‘that this is the only way to do it when describing treatment plans, she said. “We always provide options based on a client’s budget, lifestyle, and frequency of visits.”

The cost of chemotherapy should be covered by pet insurance, but it depends on the policy and the company. Some insurance companies may require a cancer rider for dogs that are prone to cancer, Barber said.

Insuring policyholders can add riders to their policies to cover specific illnesses or situations. There is usually an additional fee associated with these policy options, which varies widely.

Is it possible to treat chemotherapy drug poisoning in dogs and cats?

The risk of serious toxicity is reduced by early decontamination and treatment. The veterinarian may induce vomiting if the ingestion occurred soon after treatment. Acute vomiting can be controlled with activated charcoal.

The gastrointestinal tract can be less likely to absorb drugs this way. Pets should only be given activated charcoal by veterinarians. Without this, aspiration into the lungs and life-threatening sodium changes may occur.

An anti-nausea medication, an anti-emetics, and a gastrointestinal protectant are commonly used. You may need to be hospitalized depending on how much you consume. You may also need fluid therapy administered intravenously or under the skin.

If a pet develops serious signs, it may need intensive therapy to minimize their risk for long-term effects or death. An examination of the blood may be done to monitor the liver and kidney functions, as well as to count the blood cells.

If your pet becomes anemic or has difficulty breathing, supplemental oxygen or blood transfusions may be required. In addition to liver protectants, muscle relaxants, antiepileptic drugs, and antibiotics, there may be drugs needed to promote the production of white and red blood cells.

Chemotherapy for dogs: what are the side effects?

By slowing down or stopping cell growth, chemotherapy works. According to which drugs are used and which cells are targeted, chemotherapy can kill cancer cells, but also damage healthy cells, such as hair follicles and those found in the digestive tract. Symptoms include hair loss, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and vomiting.

The risk of infection increases when the body’s defenses are weak. As a result, owners should keep an eye out for symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting while their dogs are receiving chemotherapy.

Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of chemotherapy. You should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible if your dog experiences these side effects since excessive vomiting can lead to additional complications, such as dehydration.

If diarrhea is not managed properly, chemotherapy can also lead to dehydration.

If not dealt with quickly, chemotherapy drugs can also cause dogs to lose their appetite – a serious side effect that can lead to weight loss and other health problems.

It may be indicative of underlying kidney or liver issues if your dog is drinking or urinating more than usual during chemotherapy. Call your veterinarian as soon as you notice these symptoms.

Dogs undergoing chemotherapy often become fatigued as a result of the treatment. Even so, your dog shouldn’t be excessively lethargic; if your dog seems listless or excessively tired, speak with your veterinarian immediately.

As a result of chemotherapy drugs damaging the bone marrow, red blood cells and platelets are reduced, resulting in anemia and easier bruising or bleeding than usual. Dogs with weakened bone marrow are more prone to infection due to their reduced white blood cell counts.

The majority of side effects will go away after treatment, but if your dog doesn’t improve after several days, you should see your veterinarian because additional treatment may be necessary.

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How is chemotherapy drug poisoning in dogs and cats diagnosed?

Pets with the expected signs and a history of chemotherapy exposure are most often diagnosed. In order to evaluate kidneys, livers, electrolytes, and blood counts, blood work is often required.

Is it possible to prevent chemotherapy drug poisoning in my pet?

Consult a veterinarian before giving any medication to your pet. Vitamins and supplements, including medications, should not be left near unattended pets.

A pet should not be allowed to lick any chemotherapy ointments applied to its skin. Supplies for intravenous administration should be secured and disposed of properly. Pets are known to chew through closed bottles. The curious pet may want to rummage through purses, backpacks, lunch boxes, or suitcases. Pets should not have access to these items.

Others may attempt to open lower cabinets or open drawers. Be sure to keep your pets off of counters and tables so they do not get on them. If a medication has an unpleasant taste, do not assume that your pet will avoid it. All pets should be confined to another area of the house if medications are dropped.

If you suspect a toxic exposure, you should act immediately. Getting treatment early can reduce costs and help prevent severe health effects.  

Animal poison control center Pet Poison Helpline, based out of Minneapolis, MN, is available 24/7 to assist pet owners and veterinarians who need assistance treating a poisoned pet. Including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals, and exotic species, the staff offers treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species.

The Pet Poison Helpline’s fee of $65 per incident includes follow-up consultations for the duration of the poison case as the most cost-effective solution for animal poison control. In North America, you can reach the Pet Poison Helpline by calling 800-213-6680. The Pet Poison Helpline website has additional information about pet poisons.

Chemotherapy for dogs is expensive?

Chemotherapy costs for cats and dogs vary widely based on the type, protocol, and length of the treatment. A single treatment can cost between $100 and $500. The cost of multi-drug protocols is typically higher than that of single-drug protocols.

Animals do not always benefit from chemotherapy. Occasionally, it could be contraindicated due to its potential side effects. Chemotherapy is not a cure for cancer in many cases, so one must weigh the risks and benefits against the costs involved.

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Is my dog likely to need chemotherapy often?

Treatment frequency will vary according to the type of cancer, the dog’s overall health, the type of drug and the family’s wishes. According to Barber, treatment intervals range from once a week to once every three weeks. For a few months, you can do it every four to six weeks, then every two or three months.

Depending on the type of cancer, treatment can last anywhere from a few months to a few years.

Chemotherapy for lymphoma usually lasts between 16 and 24 weeks. The client’s treatment often does not end at this point unless he or she wishes to stop. The animals are given a rest from treatment once we have completed the initial protocol and cancer has been detected to be gone (no cancer found). The treatment then begins again,” said Barber.

A typical course of chemotherapy lasts about three months for other forms of chemotherapy, particularly when a malignant tumor has been removed and the goal is to prevent or delay a reappearance, she said.

Can I be exposed to my dog’s chemotherapy drugs?

After treatment, your pet’s waste remains active for a few days, so pet parents should be cautious and wear gloves when cleaning up after their pet. If administering oral drugs, Intile says her practice provides pet owners with chemo-proof gloves to wear and says they should always wash their hands after doing so, even while wearing gloves.

The elderly and pregnant women as well as those with weakened immune systems should be particularly careful around pet waste, she said. In contrast, your other pets do not need to share food dishes, water bowls, or utensils with your sick pet, she explained.

Be sure to keep chemotherapy medications in a container separate from your own medications when storing them in your fridge. The vet cannot give you medical advice, so you should call your doctor if you accidentally ingest your dog’s medication.

How should I feed my dog after chemotherapy?

When your dog is going through cancer treatment and recovery, it is important to feed him fatty proteins like chicken, turkey, pork, fish, and eggs that are easy to digest.

In addition, sweet potatoes or squash cooked in small amounts can be fed to your dog. To replenish his gut with healthy bacteria, you can also add probiotics to his food.

Many dogs can survive on commercial food after chemotherapy. Others may need to go on a homemade diet that they can digest easier. You can add canned pumpkin to your dog’s meals if he’s on a commercial diet. This can help him eat more solid food.

Chemotherapy side effects may be managed with an anti-nausea medication prescribed by your vet. Medications prescribed to your dog will depend on their diagnosis and other medications they are taking.

In the case of diarrhea caused by the diet changes, speak with your veterinarian about over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medications that might be safe for your pet.

Your dog should avoid any foods that may irritate his digestive system or cause him difficulty digesting them. Foods such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, and high-fat foods are among the most acidic.

Choosing a homemade or commercial diet plan for your dog who is undergoing chemotherapy should be decided after consulting your veterinarian.

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Do dogs and cats have an antidote for chemotherapy drug poisoning?

The side effects of chemotherapy drugs cannot be reversed, but there are some medications that can stimulate the bone marrow and increase the white and red blood cell counts toward normal levels.

Can a dog on chemo lick you?

Yes, it certainly can! The act may actually be beneficial to the animal. By licking, endorphins are released, which promote healing and relieve pain naturally. After being licked by a dog, you should always wash your face.

Is chemo hard on dogs?

In a word, yes. Dogs can get sick or nauseous due to chemotherapy, and they may also have diarrhea or vomiting. It is also possible for the dog to be very tired after chemotherapy.
The vet can prescribe anti-nausea medication to prevent or relieve nausea if your dog becomes nauseated from chemotherapy.
In contrast, dogs that are not treated with chemotherapy for their cancer will have the disease progress and be in a lot more discomfort.

After chemotherapy, how long does a dog live?

In general, dogs who receive chemotherapy live for about 10-12 months, although some dogs live for years. Cancer types, stages, and aggressiveness affect this greatly. Chemotherapy may be more effective in certain tumor types than in others. However, most dogs that have cancer relapse at some point. After initial treatments are completed, maintenance therapy helps maintain control and extend survival time.

Are There Alternative Treatments for Cancer in Dogs?

An additional option to surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy in your pet’s cancer arsenal is immunotherapy. Dogs are given this vaccine to stimulate their own immune systems to attack cancer. For now, Intile said melanoma (and osteosarcoma) is the focus. The larger veterinary university research hospitals are also treating some cancers with bone marrow transplants, Intile said. Bring your dog to a facility that specializes in veterinary oncology to ensure you and your pet have access to the latest treatments and clinical trials.

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Last Words On chemo killed my dog

There has been some rough weather in the past six months, but I believe the end is in sight. My dog has been through all his chemotherapy treatments without complications. He has gained some weight back and is feeling better; he has also regained his appetite.

There is still a tumor in his body, but it is no longer growing. The results of his blood tests are positive and he is feeling better. The treatments seem to be working.

However, chemotherapy cannot cure cancer. To manage the disease and improve quality of life, it is usually combined with other treatments.

To help eradicate cancer cells that have migrated away from the primary tumor, chemotherapy is often combined with surgery or radiation therapy. In order to make tumors easier to remove or target, they may be used prior to surgery or radiation therapy. The use of chemotherapy after surgery or radiation therapy can also be used to kill any remaining cancer cells.

The use of chemotherapy for dogs with incurable cancers can result in a significant improvement in quality of life (QOL) for longer periods of time by slowing the rate at which their disease advances and/or reducing the severity of their clinical signs.

Chemotherapy can save the lives of dogs suffering from many different types of cancer. A number of ways can be used to administer it, but intravenously (IV) is the most common.

An IV chemotherapy drug is injected directly into a vein in your dog’s leg or neck where it travels directly to the tumor site through the bloodstream. Additionally, chemotherapy pills or capsules can be swallowed whole without being chewed or broken open.

After being absorbed into body tissues like liver and fat cells, these medications will travel through their digestive system to reach the tumor site before entering circulation through lymphatic vessels near large blood vessels that surround lymph nodes.

The use of chemotherapy in the treatment of canine cancer is very effective. Veterinary monitoring is necessary for any treatment with side effects. Contact your veterinarian right away if you suspect that your pet is experiencing side effects.

Discuss with your veterinarian the possibility of discontinuing treatment if your pet’s quality of life has deteriorated to an unacceptable level.


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