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Chemotherapy for Dogs

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is simply the use of medication to cure or control cancer. We know it is a very frightening word just like the disease it is used against. Most of us know someone who has undergone chemotherapy to fight cancer and it may have been a very difficult process with much sickness.

Will chemotherapy make my pet sick, common side effects?

The approach we take with pets is very different. We certainly want to cure the cancer or put it into remission for as long as possible. The difference is we do not want to make our patients sick with the medications that are given. Most side effects from the drugs involve transient belly upset – we want no belly upset or very transient diarrhea or loss of appetite only – or changes in the blood count which may cause tiredness or decreased immunity – again we tolerate little change in the blood count and adjust the medication if needed.

What is cancer?

We know that the terms used with regard to cancer cause confusion. The unregulated growth of cells is cancer. This can be a very benign skin tumor that will never be a problem and never need treatment or it can be a very painful aggressive bone cancer that spreads to other areas of the body. There are many different types of cancer with a huge variance in their effects on the body. There are many cancers we can cure and unfortunately many we cannot at this time.
Chemotherapy is often used alone for cancers that cannot be easily removed with surgery and often used along with surgery for other cancers.

How is chemotherapy given to my dog?

Once we know what kind of cancer the pet has we discuss with the pet’s owners what options we have and together we come up with a plan. It can be as simple as giving medications by mouth to ensure the comfort of the patient or it can involve simple medications to shrink the tumor or slow its growth. It can be more complex, involving different medications – some of them given as injection – to ensure remission of the cancer or to even rid the cancer from the body. Medications given by injection may require your pet to be at our hospital for an hour or two while it is given.

What is the cost of canine chemotherapy?

There are always many options and changes we can make. Each individual’s medication protocol is customized. The cost of the medications may be very minimal for some oral drugs – or a more complex combination of medications may be 3-4 thousand dollars. The variance in cost is substantial and is discussed as part of what approach works best.

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