Chemotherapy is the use of drug compounds to kill growing cancer cells. These drugs disrupt the cellular processes important for the growing and dividing of cancer cells. This treatment can have many positive outcomes, such as tumor shrinkage or stabilization, reduced risk of spreading and decreased rate of local recurrence, or possibly even a cure. In general, the goal of chemotherapy is to extend life while also improving its quality.
Chemotherapy drugs can be administered in many ways: intravenously (through an IV catheter), by injection (either into the muscle or under the skin) or orally. The approach taken depends on the type of cancer, where it is located in the body, and the particular drugs that will be used in treatment. Administration is not painful and is done mostly on an outpatient basis.
What to Expect
Our oncology specialists will review your pet’s medical history in consultation with your primary veterinarian and ensure that all needed tests are performed to determine the recommended chemotherapy options. The length and frequency of treatment will vary depending on the disease being treated and the recommended chemotherapy protocols. These treatment options, possible side effect concerns and treatment costs will be thoroughly discussed so that you can make an informed decision about your pet’s treatment. Injectable chemotherapy requires outpatient administration, but oral chemotherapy can be administered at home.
Cats and dogs tend to tolerate chemotherapy very well and have low side effects risks. The two most common risks are irritation to the gastrointestinal tract (which may lead to decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea) and lowering of white blood cell counts, which can affect the ability to fight off infections and/or form blood clots. Most dogs do not lose their hair but a few dog breeds are prone to significant hair loss. Cats are likely to lose their outer coats and their whiskers. More serious complications are rare, but all side effects are monitored and treatment adjusted as necessary.
Prior to starting treatment, you will meet with one of our Medical Oncologists to discuss the plan for your pet’s chemotherapy. Our oncology specialists and oncology nurses work closely together. Our oncologists oversee all treatments and our nursing technicians are trained in administering chemotherapy. A member of our oncology team will keep you updated on your pet’s response at every visit. The effectiveness of the treatment will be determined through diagnostic testing (such as bloodwork or imaging) and through regular physical examinations.