Chemotherapy in Dogs and Cats
The treatment of cancer has evolved over the last few decades and we can now diagnose and treat many cancers that were previously either not understood or considered untreatable. The important difference between cancer therapy in humans, and that offered for pet animals, is the goals of therapy. In humans, many cancers are cured, and cancer survivors may enjoy many decades of comfortable life. For this reason, treatment of cancer is aggressive and may be associated with side effects. While pet animals are very similar to humans, their lifespan is a lot shorter. Therefore, treatment is more about preserving quality of life, and getting them into remission, rather than trying to cure and having a lot of unpleasant side effects. Generally speaking, 80% of pets experience minimal to no side effects, up to 5% will have some side effects which may require hospitalisation and the rest mild side effects which can be well managed.
Treatment varies with the type of cancer being treated and the protocol being used. For most treatments, it involves a day in hospital, placing an intravenous catheter and having an infusion of chemotherapy medication. Some weeks may just be a tablet, others an injection under the skin, sometimes just a blood test. For the most part, pets handle all of this very well, sometimes we will give them some sedation so they are calm and relaxed and the whole experience is not stressful.