A pet’s cancer diagnosis can be devastating, but many treatment options are available that can increase your pet’s quality of life, give you more time with her, or possibly cure her cancer. After your pet’s cancer is diagnosed, Austin Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center’s oncology department can offer options for treatment and work with you to determine what is best for your pet. Many different treatment options exist and many pets receive a combination of therapies, including chemotherapy, one of the most common cancer treatments available. 

What is veterinary chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy involves the use of medications to treat cancer, ease its symptoms, and, in some cases, even cure it. Whereas surgery or radiation therapy can treat a localized area, such as a tumor, chemotherapy medications travel throughout the body, treating the primary cancer site, as well as cancer cells that have metastasized (i.e., broken off and migrated to other body areas). 

Chemotherapy in Pets

How is pet chemotherapy administered?

Chemotherapy medications can be administered to pets by various methods, including:

  • Intravenous (IV) injection — Medication is administered with a syringe and needle or through an IV catheter directly into your pet’s blood stream. Many chemotherapy medications are administered this way to ensure adequate blood levels are reached immediately. Some IV chemotherapy medications can be administered quickly, whereas others may need administration over a longer time period. 
  • Subcutaneous (SQ) injection — Some chemotherapy medications can be injected under your pet’s skin for absorption into her body. 
  • Oral administration — Other chemotherapy medications come in pill or tablet form and can be administered to your pet at home. Some treatment protocols include periodic medication injections administered at our hospital paired with oral medications given by owners at home.

What side effects are expected after pet chemotherapy?

Human chemotherapy is known to cause a long list of unwanted side effects, such as severe nausea, hair loss, and exhaustion. Human chemotherapy and pet chemotherapy differ in that animals are medicated using much smaller doses, often causing fewer side effects. Pets receiving chemotherapy most commonly experience mild nausea and a decreased appetite, which can typically be treated with medication.

We believe that treatment should never be worse than the disease itself, and our goal is for your pet to enjoy her life and to continue doing what makes her happy. During her treatment, we can manage her pain and most side effects to keep her comfortable. 

Is chemotherapy dangerous to people my pet contacts?

Chemotherapy drugs can be eliminated in your pet’s urine for up to 21 days after treatment, and some drugs can pose a danger to humans. As a precaution, you should avoid contact with your pet’s urine during treatment. Encourage her to urinate away from high-traffic areas, keep children and other pets away from areas where accidents have occurred, and use gloves when cleaning up urine.

Chemo for Dogs

What is the expected outcome of my pet’s chemotherapy treatments?

The prognosis for your pet’s recovery depends on her cancer type, location, and stage. Each pet’s cancer is individual, and no one prognosis can be applied to all cases. Some cancers can be cured, whereas others can be put in remission for months to years, and some may not respond to treatment at all. While our oncologist can share your pet’s expected outcome, chemotherapy is never a guarantee, and your pet’s individual outcome will depend on her cancer’s response to treatment. We can guarantee that we will offer the best treatments available to give you as much time with your precious pet as possible. 

If your family veterinarian has diagnosed cancer in your pet, and you have questions about chemotherapy or would like to schedule a consultation with our oncology department, contact us