Dear Daisy Dog
Our dog Lady was just diagnosed with cancer. The veterinarian recommends chemotherapy, but we’re concerned that side effects will impact her quality of life. Can you help us make a decision?
The goal of most veterinary chemotherapy is to preserve high quality life by administering lower doses of the cancer medications than would be used in humans.
These relatively low doses slow the cancer’s growth without causing significant side effects.
The medications are given at home or during half-day visits to the animal hospital, so Lady probably won’t need to stay away overnight.
When my brother Sam had cancer, chemotherapy helped him feel like a puppy again for many months.
Typical of most dogs, he experienced no side effects. In fact, fewer than 25 percent of dogs develop problems with cancer medications.
When problems do occur, they usually consist of mild vomiting, diarrhea or diminished appetite that resolves quickly.
Fewer than five percent of dogs have severe side effects, such as a drop in the white blood cell count. If this happens, oral antibiotics may be needed, or the next treatment might be delayed.
The hair loss that is so common in humans undergoing chemotherapy rarely occurs in dogs.
Talk with your veterinarian about your concerns. I’m sure that together you’ll be able to tailor a treatment plan that enhances the quality of Lady’s remaining time with you.