How does chemotherapy affect dogs?

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In Animal Expert We know how important the health of your dog is to you, whether it is affected by a parasite or develops a more serious ailment.

Cancer is a disease that increasingly affects a greater number of domestic animals, as if to remind us how similar they are to humans.

Faced with a condition as delicate as this, it is normal to be puzzled about the most appropriate treatment for the animal, even with adequate veterinary care. That is why we want to talk to you about ¿how chemotherapy affects dogs?

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What type of cancer affects dogs?

Having a pet with cancer at home can be as hard and as difficult to assimilate as having a family member suffering from this disease. However, you must be willing to take on the challenge that this implies and provide the dog with the necessary care to Improve your quality of life.

There are certain types of cancer which are usually the most common in dogs, and only a few of them are treated with chemotherapy. These are:

  • Lymphosarcoma, is a neoplasm in malignant lymphocytes, affecting the liver, spleen and other organs.
  • Mastocytoma, affects mast cells, it is a skin cancer in dogs that can end up affecting some internal organs.

In which cases is chemotherapy applied?

Before deciding to use chemotherapy to treat your dog's cancer, your vet will do various studies on the location, size, and stage of the tumor.. Chemotherapy alone cannot be used to treat the tumor, Well, it is not effective. Chemotherapy is performed in the following cases:

  • When it is impossible to operate on the dog, because the cancer has spread throughout the body.
  • When there is a risk that the metastasis will spread the cancer to the organs around the tumor.
  • When tumors cannot be completely removed with surgery. In this case, it is common to start chemotherapy treatment after removing as much of the tumor as possible with a surgical intervention..
  • When the tumor is too large to be removed and it is intended to slow its growth with the use of chemotherapy.
  • When the tumor has been completely removed, so chemotherapy is prescribed to kill the rest of the cancer cells that may remain in the body.

Even if any of these reasons are present, before prescribing chemotherapy the veterinarian will carry out a general study on the dog's health, to avoid a possible negative deterioration of the animal. In the case of dogs with metastases and advancing cancer that affects several vital organs, this type of therapy is usually discouraged.

How does chemotherapy work in the dog's body?

Cancer-causing cells divide much faster than other cells in the body, so they spread very easily throughout the body. Due to this, it is used for chemotherapy to reduce or stop the reproduction and division of these cells, since the drugs used in this type of therapy destroy them.

This option is used in case of small tumors or those of proven rapid reproduction, since chemotherapy drugs detect activity malignant cell faster. In already grown and stationary tumors, the treatment loses efficacy.

One of the reasons why chemotherapy is contraindicated is that the drugs are unable to "identify" malignant cells in normal tissue, so they destroy everything equally, even healthy tissue in which growth is detected. accelerated. Despite this massive destruction, the tissues are able to continue growing when the therapy has been had, since its effects are not irreversible..

How is chemotherapy given?

The type of chemotherapy to be administered, as well as the frequency and dosage must be determined by a veterinarian. However, we can tell you that sometimes it is administered orally, through pills that you can give the dog yourself at home, or through injections which, in most cases, do not imply that the dog remains hospitalized.

The duration will depend on the health of the dog and the response of the body to the treatment. Some dogs may need chemotherapy for the rest of their lives, but the usual is usually an application of weeks or months.

What are the effects of chemotherapy in the dog?

Despite what you might think, chemotherapy does not have the same side effects in dogs as it does in humans. In the canine species, negative effects are manifested only in 5% of cases. On many occasions it happens that the life of the dog can only be extended one more year, since the treatment is not curative, but palliative, so it is intended to improve the quality of life of the animal, but not to completely annihilate the cancer.

In dogs, the side effects are concentrated in:

  • Digestive problems: chemotherapy can affect the inner lining of the intestines, causing diarrhea and vomiting, as well as a significant decrease in appetite.
  • Lowering of defenses: produced by the weakening of the bone marrow, responsible for the production of white blood cells. By decreasing these blood cells, the immune system is weakened, so the dog will be more prone to infection.
  • Hair loss: it is rare in dogs, but usually affects short-haired dogs, especially on the tail and face. ¿Why? Hair follicles are affected by chemotherapy, which damages them, causing hair loss. You may need to cut their hair in certain places if your vet tells you to..

Although these are the most common effects, you should keep an eye out for any weakness or unusual behavior in your dog, and let your vet know right away.

This article is merely informative, at we do not have the power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the vet in the event that it presents any type of condition or discomfort.

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