Chemo Killed My Dog?

According to the  AKC Canine Health Foundation  (CHF), 30% of dogs over the age of 7 are estimated to have cancer, which affects an estimated 25% of all canines. Unfortunately, this disease has a deadly outcome for many pets. It is the major cause of death in older animals, with cancer accounting for up to half of all deaths. Chemo is offered to help eliminate or slow the growth of cancer.

If your dog died after undergoing chemotherapy and you are now feeling lost and wondering if it was worth it and doubting its safety, this article is for you.

What Is Chemotherapy in Dogs?

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be administered topically (as a cream), intravenously (via IV), or orally (in pill form). Chemotherapy is frequently combined with other medical procedures including surgery and radiation therapy.

Depending on the sort of cancer your dog has and how healthy he is generally, a specific drug or drug combination will be prescribed. Your veterinarian will keep an eye on the chemotherapy to make sure it is functioning effectively and has few side effects. If not, the vet may try a different drug or alter the dosage and frequency.

The final recommendation will depend on the extent of the skin tumor if surgery can be performed, whether it is more widespread, and whether the dog is a good candidate for surgery.

Chemo Killed My Dog?

Chemo can kill a dog in two ways; by weakening the immune system and killing excess healthy tissues rendering the body too weak to fight against infections. The main aim of chemotherapy is to kill cancerous cells, however, it can kill healthy cells leading to organ failure. 

The second instance is when a dog had a preexisting condition before receiving chemotherapy. A dog with an underlying condition like heart complications, it can be worsened.

Chemotherapy medications’ mechanisms of action have evolved over time, and while many traditional chemotherapy drugs are still in use, there are also newer varieties with a much broader margin of safety. Traditional chemotherapeutic drugs work by concentrating on and eliminating quickly dividing cells.

 Cancer cells are the primary target of chemotherapy medications because they tend to divide more quickly than normal cells. However, these medications are unable to distinguish between cancer cells and healthy cells that divide quickly, such as those in the bone marrow, hair, skin, or intestinal cells. This implies that normal cells may also sustain damage, producing toxicity. Fortunately, many more recent methods of chemotherapy can specifically target particular cancerous cell types, reducing or even preventing any potential harm to healthy cells.

How Often Will My Dog Need Chemotherapy?

The type of cancer, the dog’s general health, the medication, and family preferences will all influence how frequently the dog receives treatments. The majority of therapies are administered at intervals of once per week to once every three weeks. This frequency may remain for a few months before shifting to every four to six weeks.

Additionally, the length of the treatment might range from a few months to a few years, depending on the type of cancer.

What Potential Side Effects May Come from My Pet Receiving Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy may have undesirable effects when chemotherapy drugs damage healthy cells. The negative effects are linked to the organs with the quickest turnover (i.e. cells that divide quickly), which in a healthy body include the gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow. More side effects can be experienced Depending on the medicine, and they typically affect another organ.

Despite the possibility of major side effects, there is a small (10% likelihood) risk of hospitalization for side effects and a less than 1% chance of life-threatening adverse effects with any chemotherapy. Below are some of the side effects of chemotherapy;

1. Reduced White Blood Cell Count

The bone marrow is impacted by several chemotherapy treatments, and the neutrophil is the white blood cell that is most quickly affected. When neutrophil, a type of white blood cell that aids in the fight against infection levels go below normal, is what is referred to as neutropenia. Typically, neutropenia sets in 7–10 days following most of the chemotherapy treatments. The vet may decide to perform routine blood tests (Complete Blood Counts), postpone a planned therapy, administer prophylactic antibiotics to prevent infection or suggest hospitalization for sick animals if the neutrophil count is too low for chemotherapy.

2. Damage to the Heart (Cardiac) Muscle

 In very rare circumstances, certain chemotherapy drugs, such as doxorubicin, might permanently harm the heart muscle. Since this is often a cumulative dose effect, vets try to limit the highest total dose your pet can take or advise a cardiac screening before or during treatment if any symptoms or concerns appear. Less than 5% of patients who have chemotherapy go on to develop cardiac disease.

3. Kidney Damage

This adverse reaction is drug- and species-specific Vets can keep an eye out for this toxicity with the use of routine assessments of blood tests and urine samples.

4. Tissue Damage

Severe tissue reactions, such as discomfort or irritation at the injection site, redness, swelling, bruising, and in some circumstances, significant tissue death, can happen if some chemotherapeutic chemicals (such as vinca drugs or doxorubicin) leak beyond the vein.

5. Allergic Reactions

Although uncommon, this adverse effect is possible with several chemotherapy drugs (such as L-asparaginase and Doxorubicin). 

6. Hair Loss (Alopecia)

While receiving chemotherapy, pets rarely have hair loss, but if they do, it shouldn’t bother you. Animals with continuously growing hair, such as Old English Sheepdogs and Poodles, are the pets most at risk. Normally, if an animal loses hair while receiving therapy, it will regrow when treatment is over, and in rare situations, the hair may even be of a different color or texture.

7. Gastrointestinal Discomfort

2–7 days following treatment, patients often suffer some GI discomfort. Typically, these symptoms are small and self-limiting. Often, switching to a bland diet, providing smaller meals throughout the day, and using drugs to treat the symptoms of pain.

Some of the gastrointestinal discomforts include;

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite

8. Lethargy

Lack of energy, sometimes known as lethargy, is a typical adverse effect of chemotherapy. Typically, your pet may begin to sleep more or show less interest in play starting 3–6 days following the therapy. You shouldn’t be concerned about this, and it should go away soon. However, if it persists, contact your vet.

Is Chemo Right For Your Dog?

Chemotherapy may offer the best chance of curing some tumors, but a variety of other factors also affect how successful it is. This includes the severity of the disease, the age, and health of the animal, the breed, the type and grade of cancer, and if surgery and radiation are used in conjunction with other treatments.

When thinking about chemotherapy, owners should primarily consider these factors:  

Overall health: Besides the malignancy, how is the animal’s general health? An older animal with underlying diseases like heart or liver illness may be more difficult to treat, or their prognosis may be poorer.

Age: Age is not a disease and that treatment is still possible. However, how long an animal is projected to live in general is a factor in the equation. Owners of 15-year-old animals are nevertheless permitted to proceed with chemotherapy to extend their pet’s quality of life.

Finances: There is no third-party payment system for chemotherapy unless you have pet insurance. Due to the fact that it uses the same medications as those prescribed for humans, albeit in smaller doses, it can also be pricey. So the expense of the treatment is frequently taken into consideration.

Life circumstances and the emotional toll: Chemotherapy-treated dogs frequently do not recover. Pet parents are advised to think about how they’ll feel about the scenario five years from now. Also, be truthful about your own emotions.

How Do I Know When to Euthanize a Dog That Has Cancer?

Cancers in both the early and late stages demand careful observation. Pay special attention to any changes in your dog’s habits and demeanor.

Dogs can’t express their emotions to us, so these occasionally subtle changes can help you assess your pet’s pain level and general state of health. You should discuss your dog’s quality of life and if it’s time to put them down with your veterinarian if you observe any of the following symptoms.

The following are some signs that various cancer types may exhibit in their advanced stages:

  1. Melanoma: This type of cancer that develops in the mouth can make it difficult to swallow, chew, or eat, which can cause weight loss, pain, infection, and if the growths are large, problems breathing.
  2. Lymphoma: Dogs with end-stage lymphoma may exhibit extremely lethargic behavior, vomit, have diarrhea, eat less and lose weight. Large lymph nodes can impair breathing because they block the throat, which may hinder breathing. Your dog may exhibit noisy inhalation (stertor) or respiratory difficulties.  
  3. Anal gland (sac) cancer: This cancer can cause sores or big, invasive growths to appear around the anus, as well as bleeding, infection, pain, and/or trouble moving or urinating. As this type of cancer frequently metastasizes to the lungs, your dog might be coughing or experiencing breathing difficulties.
  4. Mammary gland (breast) cancer: Large, lump-like tumors that overrun their blood supply may cause bleeding, tissue death, severe infection, and discomfort.
  5. Hemangiosarcoma: This cancer normally isn’t identified until it has advanced. Blood loss from tumor ruptures in the spleen, liver, or heart causes hemorrhage and, ultimately, death. Additionally, this kind of cancer spreads to the lungs, resulting in coughing and breathing difficulties.
  6. Liver cancer: In its advanced stages, certain liver cancers can cause symptoms such as abdominal hemorrhage, vomiting, diarrhea, decreased or nonexistent appetite, weight loss, and/or liver failure.
  7. Mast cell tumors: The liver and spleen are frequently affected by the end stages of aggressive mast cell tumors, which can cause fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite, and occasionally anaphylactic reactions.
  8. Soft tissue sarcoma: If left untreated, these masses can grow to be enormous, hard masses that hurt your dog, make it difficult for him to move around, can result in sores, make him feel generally ill, and cause him to lose weight.


Why Is My Dog Panting Now That He Has Had Chemotherapy?

Dogs receiving chemotherapy frequently experience panting as a side effect. Chemotherapy medications might make dogs feel nauseous, which can make them sweat and get restless. Additionally, some chemotherapy medications can lead to lung irritation, which can also result in panting. Consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog’s panting following chemotherapy.

Can My Dog Lick Me While On Chemotherapy?

Most of the time, it’s okay for dogs receiving chemotherapy to lick their owners. Chemotherapy medications are mainly eliminated through urine and feces, and saliva does not pose a substantial risk to people. But you should still wash your hands carefully after handling your dog or their excrement to maintain high standards of cleanliness.

 Can Chemotherapy Treat Canine Cancer?

Chemotherapy is not usually a cure for cancer in dogs, although it can help manage it. Chemotherapy’s efficacy is influenced by several variables, including the cancer’s type and stage, the dog’s general health, and its response to treatment. Chemotherapy may be able to cure or put some malignancies into remission while only temporarily affecting others.

Is It Safe to Be Exposed to My Dog’s Chemotherapy Drugs?

Pet parents are encouraged to be cautious and to wear gloves when cleaning up after their pet because the medications are still active in your dog’s feces for a few days after treatment 

Women who are expecting or nursing, as well as others who have compromised immune systems, such as the elderly, should exercise extra caution when handling their pet’s feces.

However, you shouldn’t be worried about your other pets sharing food, water, or utensils with your ill dog. Make sure to keep chemotherapy pills separate from your other medications when storing them in the refrigerator.

Don’t prepare chemotherapy near where food is prepared.

Don’t administer near food or soft, absorbent furnishings so that spills may be quickly wiped up. DO NOT split or open pills or capsules.

How Does Chemotherapy Affect Dog’s Survival Chances?

A dog’s odds of surviving after being diagnosed with cancer depend on a variety of circumstances. These include the specific chemotherapy/treatment protocol chosen, the type and stage of cancer, and other health issues.

If the cancer is discovered when it is still in an early stage, your pet will have the best chance of surviving the disease. Early diagnosis can, in fact, aid in therapy, recovery, and extending your dog’s quality of life.

Unfortunately, cancer in dogs often becomes incurable. In these circumstances, chemotherapy may still be suggested as a strategy to lessen the disease’s effects on your pet.

Leave a Comment