Chemotherapy Treatment for Dogs – Is There Hope?



The Ruff Choices Pet Parents Must Make When Their Pet Has Cancer

There is hope for dogs with cancer!
There is hope for dogs with cancer!



More and more often these days, dogs are considered true members of the family – and for good reason. But while we (and our pets) most certainly consider this is a wonderful development, all that love and connection has one clear downside: all pets’ lives come to an end, and that end might not be expected or an easy one.

Recent estimates suggest that as many as 1 in 3 three dogs will contract cancer in their lifetimes. Of course, many of these cases will go undiagnosed; dogs can’t report their symptoms, and the warning signs aren’t always easy to differentiate from the general decline we expect of old age. But in the case that a dog does exhibit clear signs of cancer, or if their condition rapidly worsens, more and more pet owners are beginning to consider treatments that were once reserved only for their human counterparts.

Surgery is in many cases, a viable or necessary option; radiation has also been proven effective. Less cut and dry however, is the question of chemotherapy. Chemo is for dogs and humans, and an expensive process with serious pros and cons. But, it’s worth noting that there are significant differences in a dog’s experience with the treatment.


Cute red and red-and-white Cavapoo puppies, 5 weeks old, hugging


Vets don’t (contrary to the beliefs of many) consider cancer a death sentence. To them, it’s a chronic but treatable condition, and certainly not a cause to begin grieving. Vets often don’t suggest chemo, but that’s largely because there are a number of other effective treatments available that are, in many cases, the right choice. Chemo is almost never suggested alone; often it is administered alongside immunotherapy, radiation, and often in conjunction with surgery.

Chemo is infamous for it’s side effects—hair loss, gastrointestinal issues, weight loss – but that doesn’t mean your dog will be bed-ridden and sick. The reason is simple as dog’s receive a much smaller dose of the drug than humans do. But just as you shouldn’t expect the same dramatic side effects found in human chemo patients, nor should you expect the same degree of beneficial ones. Chemo won’t provide dogs with the same kind of increased life expectancy that it does for humans. And dogs, of course, can’t tell us if they feel the treatment is truly worth the while.

If the question weren’t already complicated enough, the side effects of chemo are extremely unpredictable. Simply, there’s no way to generalize, the use of chemo absolutely must be decided on a case-by-case basis. It’s worth considering that chemotherapy for dogs is a little different. Vets and pet owners are not looking to increase your dog’s life span, but simply to improve its quality of life. Depending on the type of cancer, and on the stage it’s in, chemo may be the most effective way to make your dog feel better. In a lot of cases, dogs actually perk up shortly after beginning treatment.

Being well informed is only the first step; the second is finding a vet you can trust and has your dog’s best interest in mind. If your dog is diagnosed with cancer, take the time to talk over the treatment question at length with your vet, and together you’ll be able to tailor a plan perfect for your pup. More often dogs are real troopers and whatever you choose they’ll be thankful, rest assured.

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