Chemotherapy might not be very effective to treat some kind of cancers in dogs but it could be an effective treatment for lymphoma and other cancers. The drugs used for chemotherapy usually combines chemotherapy drugs and irradiation. The most common drugs used for chemotherapy is Methotrexate, cisplatin and L-asparaginase. Side effects of chemotherapy in dogs are quite common although the chemotherapy drugs are more toxic to cancerous cells than the healthy cells.
Chemotherapy side effects in Dogs:
• Digestive Side Effects: As per the Canine Cancer Awareness, the most common side effects from the chemotherapy drugs in dogs are vomiting and nausea. After injecting L-asparaginase, vomiting can happen immediately after treatment and may also continue for a few days from the treatment. Cisplatin on the other hand, when injected can lead to vomiting after six hours from the treatment. After another six hours nausea and vomiting usually stops.
• Unusual Side Effects: There are various unusual side effects that canine’s face once chemotherapy begins. This includes, rise in blood sugar levels, problems with blood clothing, changes in liver enzyme production. Some drugs might also cause pregnant dogs to abort their puppies. The drug cisplatin in some rare cases might also cause temporary deafness and coordination problems in dogs. As per the University of Illinois, a few drugs might also irritate the skin at the injection part and could also swell or cause itching.
• Serious Side Effects: The most serious side effects one could experience in canines during chemotherapy includes, liver disease, bone marrow problems and pancreatitis. To keep an eye on these problems, a complete check on the blood counts at regular intervals is very important. The test would help to find the functions of the bone marrow, pancreas and liver. If there is any problem that comes to the doctors notice, the chemotherapy drug is lowered.
Apart from the above side effects it is also possible that there might be an overdose of the chemotherapy drugs given to canines. The symptoms of the overdose include loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. The vomiting is quite frequent in this case. If you come across such symptoms in a dog on chemotherapy, the veterinarian need to be called immediately.
A few Misconceptions:
Dogs usually do not lose their hair as it is observed in humans, during chemotherapy. The University of Illionois however says that some breed might shed their hair leading to noticeably thinning coats. The breed include, Kerry blue, poodles, terriers, old English sheepdogs, Lhasa apsos, schnauzers, puli, Maltese and shih tzus.
In most of the cases veterinaries are unable to cure cancer patients. The aim of chemotherapy is to improve the pet’s quality of life. Chemotherapy is therefore used to lessen the discomfort that is caused by tumors or to lower the progress of the disease. The average life expectancy is provided by the oncologist in most types to tumors, with or without the treatments.
So it is up to the owner to decide whether to go for chemotherapy treatments. Practical concerns, medical information and financial responsibilities are some factors that is taken into consideration to begin with the treatment.