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Chemotherapy for Dogs: What to Expect and What to Know

Cane Bay Summerville - Chemotherapy for DogsJust like in humans, cancer among canines is a concern for any pet parent. If you’ve recently been told your best friend has cancer and needs treatment, your provider will go over all the options with you for the best approach.

If chemotherapy is suggested, you may be wondering what it entails, the toll it will have on your fur baby, its effectiveness, the cost and a myriad of other questions.

While your veterinarian will have the most detailed answers for your pet’s specific case, below we provide a broad overview if you find yourself grappling with next steps after an unexpected diagnosis.

What Is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a medication or combination of drugs that are used to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. Depending on your pet’s specific treatment plan, they can be given orally as pills or intravenously at the vet’s office.

Chemo works by killing growing cells, but it does not distinguish between healthy cells and cancer cells. Therefore, some dogs are more susceptible to infection during this time while their immune systems are compromised.

It should be noted that the duration of chemotherapy will vary depending on your pet’s specific needs and treatment plan.

What Are the Side Effects?

Chemotherapy for dogs rarely causes side effects. In fact, for a vast majority of canines – roughly 75% to 80% – the treatment is tolerated well and side effect-free. Those that do have side effects typically experience them less severely than humans, as dogs are given lower doses.

If present, common side effects include a loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. Unlike humans, however, most breeds usually don’t lose their hair. You may notice extra fatigue or energy loss in your once boisterous fur baby. Additionally, a decrease in white blood cells may make your precious pooch more prone to infection.

If any side effects seem out of the ordinary or severe, these concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian.

How Effective is Chemotherapy for Dogs?

Chemotherapy’s effectiveness depends largely on the type of cancer, the stage and the specifics surrounding your dog’s overall health. Cancer is not always fully curable, but chemotherapy can extend and improve your pup’s duration and quality of life while improving symptoms of the cancer.

Of course, cancer that is detected at an earlier stage is more likely to respond better to treatment than cancer that is detected later.

What is the Estimated Cost?

The cost of chemotherapy for dogs varies significantly depending on how frequently the chemotherapy is administered, what protocol is used, if your pooch is given pills, injections or infusions, and also the vet clinic’s particular practice and policies.

One veterinarian told PetMD that some treatments are roughly $30/injection. Depending on the length of treatment and type of chemo needed, she said a typical round of chemotherapy for lymphoma at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine can range from $3,500-$4,500, but she cautioned that other clinics could be upwards of $10,000. Other clinics, on the other hand, may fall below this amount.

Not all treatment plans are this expensive, so it is important to talk to your veterinarian about all possible treatment options, the cost of each and payment plans. Pet insurance may also pay for some of the treatment depending on your insurance plan.

Your veterinarian will gladly find a solution with you that’s within your budget to provide the best possible comfort and care to your pooch during this challenging time. It’s important to be up front with your veterinarian about finances from the beginning so you can both be on the same page and work out the best course of action together.

Whatever the circumstances, whether sick or in good health, here at Cane Bay, we are always here for you to be a loving friend, a faithful pet sitter and a caring companion in your deepest times of need.

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