Cancer is often a difficult disease to control and frequently requires a variety of treatments. Similar to cancer treatment in people, surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are often used alone or in combination with other treatments to control cancer in pets. Chemotherapy is frequently used to treat cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, to treat cancer that cannot be treated with surgery or radiation therapy alone or when it may enhance the effectiveness of these treatments.
What is the goal of chemotherapy?
What is chemotherapy?
How is chemotherapy given?
How should I handle body fluids while my pet is on chemotherapy?
How often is chemotherapy given?
How long will my pet receive chemotherapy?
What happens when chemotherapy no longer controls the cancer?
May my pet receive vaccinations while on chemotherapy?
What sort of side effects may my pet have with chemotherapy?
Although the above are the most common potential side effects, they occur in less than 30% of the pets receiving chemotherapy. Other side effects are possible, but are often unique to individual drugs (listed below).
Commonly Used Chemotherapy Drugs
Doxorubicin (Adriamycin®) – Administered IV every 2-3 weeks; side effects include those listed above and potential damage to the heart muscle. We recommend performing a heart function exam (echocardiogram) in some dogs before starting this drug. The dose we use is below the known level that causes heart damage and less than 10% of all pets develop heart problems with this drug.
Carboplatin (Paraplatin®) – Administered IV every 3-4 weeks; side effects can include those listed above, but this drug is generally easier on the stomach and intestines.
Cisplatin (Platinol®) – Administered IV every 3 weeks; side effects include those listed above, but most importantly this drug can cause kidney damage.To avoid or minimize damage, blood work before the administration of the drug will alert your clinician if the kidneys are weak. If the kidneys have normal functioning values, your pet will receive IV fluids several hours before and after the administration of the cisplatin to flush the kidneys.
L-Asparaginase (Elspar®) – Administered as an injection directly into the muscle or just under the skin; side effect- acute allergic reaction. After administration of this drug, either you or a hospital staff person will watch the pet for 15-20 minutes to observe for signs of itchy or red skin, hives, difficulty breathing or collapse. If you see any of these signs after the 15-20 min. time period, contact a doctor or nurse in the Oncology Service at CSU or at your local emergency veterinary clinic.
Mitoxantrone (Novantrone®) – Administered IV every 3 weeks; side effects include those listed above.
Vincristine (Oncovin®) – Administered IV every 1-3 weeks; side effects include those listed above.
Vinblastine (Velban®) – Administered IV every 1-3 weeks; side effects include those listed above.
Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan®) – Administered by mouth daily for 3-5 days or IV every 3 weeks; side effects include low white blood cell counts and bladder irritation. If you notice your pet is straining to urinate or if you see blood in the urine, stop administering the drug and call your pet’s clinician.
Leukeran (Chlorambucil®) – Administered by mouth daily or every 3 weeks; side effects include low white blood cell counts.
Lomustine (CCNU®) – Administered by mouth every 2-3 weeks; side effects include low white blood cell counts and potential liver damage – blood tests will check for liver problems prior to each dose.
Steroids (prednisone, prednisolone) – Administered by mouth daily to every other day; side effects include increased appetite, increased water consumption, increased urination, panting and, rarely, behavior changes. Cats have lower incidence of these side effects.
Piroxicam (Feldene®) – Administered by mouth daily. This drug can cause ulcers in the stomach or intestine. Notify your pet’s clinician if you observe loss of appetite, vomiting, or dark/tarlike stools, which could be a sign of digested blood from an ulcer.
Melphalan (Alkeran®) – Administered by mouth every day or every 3 weeks; most common side effect is a low white blood cell count.
If you are interested in other current cancer treatment options; please refer to surgery and radiation therapy. The ACC offers additional information as Client Handouts that can be obtained on site or via mail if requested.