Pet cancer occurs when normal cells lose their ability to regulate how quickly they divide, leading to uncontrolled growth and sometimes spread to other parts of the body (metastasis).
Our team at Pet Specialists of Monterey includes board certified specialists in surgery, internal medicine, cardiology, and oncology. These clinicians are highly skilled at recognizing abnormal growths and determining if they are cancerous through different diagnostics techniques, including blood work, advanced imaging (radiographs, ultrasound, computed tomography), and sampling of the tissue. If your pet has been diagnosed with cancer, the rest of their body will be screened (called “staging”) for metastasis.
Once diagnosed, there are different methods of treatment depending on the type of cancer your pet has. The best treatment for your companion will be determined by our doctors and may include one or a combination of the following options:
- Radiation therapy
Chemotherapy can be given orally at home or injected into a patient’s vein or under their skin in the hospital, which may vary depending on the protocol chosen. The duration of treatment will depend on the type of cancer being treated and how well your pet responds. During every chemotherapy appointment, we check of your pet’s vital signs and perform a physical examination. We will also complete blood work prior to chemotherapy administration, which helps ensure that your pet is healthy enough to receive the medication. If abnormalities are found, your pet’s treatment may be postponed.
Side Effects and Safety
Unlike human chemotherapy protocols where the goal is complete and permanent remission, veterinary protocols strive for balance between extending life expectancy and maintaining quality of life at home during cancer treatment. Negative side effects are usually limited or mild in our patients (about 15% of patients), and can include vomiting, diarrhea, inappetence, and lethargy. Suppression of the bone marrow may be caused by chemotherapy, which is carefully monitored and usually does not cause symptoms. If these symptoms occur, your pet’s protocol may be adjusted.
Most chemotherapeutic agents are eliminated as byproducts through the urine, but some may also be present in the saliva, bile, and feces.
To ensure safety while your pet undergoes chemotherapy, follow these guidelines:
- For at least 48 to 72 hours after receiving chemotherapy, have your pet eliminate in an area not accessible to other pets or people
- Handle any accidents (i.e. urine, feces, or vomit) in the house with gloves and paper towels that can be double-bagged and discarded
- Clean the area of the accident with a 10% bleach solution
- Soiled bedding or clothing should be handled with gloves and washed twice in hot water
- Litter boxes should be handled with gloves and cleaned immediately
- Pregnant or nursing women should avoid handling of urine and feces, even with gloves
- Medications should always be handled with gloves, pills should never be cut or broken, and capsules never opened
- Keep medications out of reach of children and pets
- If your pet requires a visit to another veterinary hospital, you should inform the veterinarian that your pet is receiving chemotherapy
Animals undergoing chemotherapy are safe to be around children and other animals.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Sami Al-Nadaf, DVM, Diplomate American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Oncology), please call 831-899-4838.