Our goal in using chemotherapy is to prolong life or improve the quality of life of our patients. There is a great deal for you to consider when deciding about chemotherapy for your pet. This information is only meant to introduce you to chemotherapeutics in animals. The estimated prognosis, treatment schedule, and cost will all depend both upon the diagnosis and response to chemotherapy.
Cancer is essentially a rapid, uncontrolled growth of cells. Chemotherapy acts by decreasing the cell growth and division. The length of time and frequency of treatment depend upon the type of cancer and how well the patient is tolerating the therapy. For example, a combination therapy regimen is often used for a total of 16 treatments, given every 3-4 weeks. Keep in mind this is just one example, treatment frequency and duration are very individual.
Chemotherapy drugs are very potent and must be handled with care. It is important that chemotherapeutic drugs be kept out of reach of children or other pets. If handling these tablets, you should wear latex or polyvinyl gloves to prevent leaving drug residues on your hands. With these drugs, your pet's urine, feces, and vomitus may be contaminated with small amounts of active drug for several days following administration. Solid waste (including urine soaked items) should be disposed of in sealed garbage bags to avoid accidental exposure. Wash and rinse exposed, nonporous surfaces well.
Chemotherapeutic agents and dosages are chosen to reduce cancer growth while minimizing adverse effects. Low white blood cell counts, decrease in appetite, mild vomiting or diarrhea, mild hair loss, and delayed regrowth of shaven fur can occur. The bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract, skin and reproductive tract are the most sensitive organ systems. Medication for vomiting or nausea may be prescribed if necessary. The most common side effect is lethargy for a 1-2 day period following administration. There is no way to predict which animals will develop side effects, however, there are things we can do to make them more comfortable during treatment. Blood work is monitored closely. This will evaluate the body's ability to tolerate the treatments as well as keep drug dosages in therapeutic range.
If you ever feel that you do not want to continue with the chemotherapy regimen for your pet, simply let us know and we will do what we can to help support your pet without these drugs.
If your pet has been diagnosed with cancer and you are contemplating chemotherapy, call the office to set up an appointment. Dr. Comer will examine your pet and review the results of any diagnostics provided by your regular veterinarian. With this information, a treatment plan, specific to your pet, can be discussed. Together we will provide the best care for you and your pet.