Chemotherapy Treatment for Dogs

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    Cancer affects 25% of all dogs and 30% of those over the age of 7 years, according to the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF). Unfortunately, many pets can die as a result of this illness. Cancer is the leading cause of death in older pets, accounting for up to half of all deaths.

    The shock of learning that your pet has cancer may leave you with a lot of unanswered questions. Chemotherapy for your dog might be stressful or even frightening. The good news is that pets usually fare far better than humans when it comes to chemotherapy. Understanding how chemotherapy medications operate and what to expect from treatments will help you determine if this treatment is good for your pet.

    What is Chemotherapy and How Does It Work?

    Photo Credit: Ethos Veterinary Health

    Chemotherapy for dogs is a type of pharmacological treatment that is used to destroy or halt the development of cancer cells. Many of the medications used to treat cancer are obtained from natural sources such as plants, trees, and even microorganisms, and are often the same compounds that are used in humans. Some medications have a wide range of effects, while others are more focused. The type of cancer your dog has, as well as his overall condition, will determine which treatment or combination is best for him. Your veterinarian will closely monitor the chemotherapy treatment to ensure that it is effective and has few negative effects. If not, he or she may try a different medicine or make a lifestyle modification.

    What Does Chemotherapy Treat in Dogs?

    Chemotherapy can be used either alone or in combination with other cancer treatments such as surgery and radiation therapy to treat a variety of cancers. Chemotherapy can be used to shrink large tumors before surgery or to aid in the destruction of small cancer cells that cannot or have not been completely removed surgically in some cases. 


    Chemotherapy can be also used after surgery to help delay or prevent cancer from spreading to other parts of the body in malignancies with a high risk of spreading.

    Is Chemotherapy Safe for Dogs?

    We know all too well some of the most prevalent chemo side effects in humans, such as nausea, vomiting, and decreased energy levels. Because dogs often receive lesser dosages of treatment and have fewer extra medications delivered to them, they may have milder responses to chemotherapy, such as not losing their hair.


    Dogs may develop mild, moderate, or severe appetite loss, vomiting, or diarrhea as a result of this. A higher risk of infection may be associated with lower white and red blood cell counts. Finally, some dogs may get drowsy as a result of the treatments. Any clinical indications that appear to be out of the norm in your dog should be discussed with your veterinarian.

    Is Chemotherapy Effective?

    If your pet is diagnosed with cancer when it is still in its early stages, it has the best chance of survival. Early discovery can aid with treatment, recuperation, and extending the life of your dog.


    Unfortunately, cancer is typically incurable in dogs. Chemotherapy may still be advised in some circumstances to assist alleviate your pet’s disease-related discomfort. The main objective of therapy is to improve and extend the quality of life of each patient for as long as feasible. During the initial visit, a veterinary oncologist will give pet owners thorough information regarding the success of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy alone or in combination with other therapies has varying success rates depending on the kind of cancer.

    What Kinds of Chemotherapy Treatment Are There?

    Chemotherapy is available in a variety of forms. Some medications must be administered intravenously (IV), whereas others can be administered subcutaneously or intramuscularly. The medicine may be administered directly into the tumor in rare circumstances. Some chemotherapy drugs can be taken orally as pills that are given at home.

    What Happens During Chemotherapy Treatment?

    Photo Credit: CAVE Veterinary Specialists

    The method of chemotherapy administration is determined by the medicine used. Most treatments are given through injection and last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. She noted that certain intravenous medicine infusions might take all day but are uncommon. Chemotherapy is also administered orally, in the office, or at home.

    A chemotherapy treatment visit usually takes an hour, which includes time for paperwork, bloodwork, a checkup, and follow-up instructions. According to her, these sessions are comparable to a conventional vet visit and are aimed to reduce stress for both the dog and the pet parent.

    How Often Do Dogs Need Chemotherapy and How Long Does it Last?

    Treatment frequency is determined by the kind of cancer, the dog’s overall health, the individual medicine, and the owner’s preferences. Most treatments are administered at intervals ranging from once a week to once every three weeks. This frequency can continue a few months before being repeated every four to six weeks. The length of therapy varies according to the kind of cancer and might range from a few months to many years. Some dogs may even need it for the rest of their lives and if their cancer clears up or goes into remission, others may only receive sporadic therapy or no treatment at all.

    How Much Does Chemotherapy Cost?

    The cost varies due to the fact that each pet’s therapy is different. The average cost of chemo for dogs can range from $150 to $500 per dose. Initial consultation fees with an oncologist can range from $125 to $250, depending on the hospital, clinic, and geographic location. The cost of surgery is determined by the tumor’s size and location. Overall Cancer treatment costs an average of $4,000 for dogs.

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