The chemotherapy drugs used on dogs are generally the same ones used on people.
Protocols may differ, however, depending upon the breed, the size of the animal, the type of tumor and where it’s located.
Unfortunately, many pet owners are not aware of the potential risks associated with these drugs, which can affect their dog and potentially any humans in the household as well.
Let me give you a few examples. With dogs, a drug called carboplatin is often used to treat osteosarcoma, or cancer of the bone. This is the most common bone malignancy found in dogs. Osteosarcoma is a very serious condition, and, unfortunately, most pets diagnosed do not survive longer than a year, with current mainstream medical treatments.
According to one website, run by veterinarians, the typical treatment is amputation, plus chemotherapy to provide “temporary relief.”
Cisplatin is another drug often used to treat osteosarcoma. Let me tell you a little about both of these closely related drugs.
Cancer Drugs for Dogs
Carboplatin is very similar to cisplatin. But it’s considered more “stable,” and therefore “safer.”
Carboplatin is classified as a carcinogen and a teratogen, which means it can harm a developing fetus. Cisplatin is also carcinogenic and has the potential to cause mutations. If you’re pregnant, or there’s a possibility you’re pregnant, you may be interested in an earlier post I wrote on Canine Chemotherapy and Human Pregnancy.
Pet owners, at the very least, should know these drugs are very unlikely to “cure” or even bring about long-term remission of canine bone cancer.
You also need to know that these bioactive agents are likely excreted in your dog’s urine, feces and saliva. This means there’s the likelihood that humans living in the same house will be exposed to harmful and potentially carcinogenic compounds.
Veterinary Chemotherapy Drugs
There’s not a lot written about the success rates of canine chemotherapy. With human chemotherapy, it’s good to know that “success” doesn’t necessarily mean cure. These pharmaceuticals may shrink a tumor. But this doesn’t always translate into longer survival time.
It’s my personal opinion that dog owners should be fully informed of the risks and benefits of canine chemotherapy. For instance, they should know whether the vet considers the treatment regimen curative or palliative. They should also know about the potential for what’s now known as “second hand chemo.” This means someone is exposed to these carcinogenic drugs, even though they’re not being treated with them.
Veterinary Chemotherapy Protocols
When humans are given chemotherapy, the American Cancer Society urges patients to not use the same bathroom as family members. If a separate bathroom isn’t available, they’re warned to flush the toilet twice, with the lid down. That’s because toxic chemicals are in their urine stream.
If a caregiver comes in contact with bodily fluids, from a patient undergoing chemotherapy, they are to carefully wash the part of their body that’s exposed. Plus, they are instructed to tell their doctor that this happened.
Some of the other drugs used to treat malignancies in dogs include L-asparaginase, cyclophosphamide and Vincristine. If chemo is suggested, I highly recommend reading up on these chemicals and getting some answers from your vet.
Success Rate of Veterinary Chemotherapy
One question you may want to ask is what percentage of dogs, with this particular type of cancer, live more than a year with the full complement of treatments? Don’t be afraid to have him or her to point you to a particular study, so you can see the data for yourself.
Please understand that I’m not a vet. I’m just a dog Mom. My Cocker spaniel is now 16. And he has cancer. So some of this I’m writing from first-hand experience.
I believe it’s important to do your own research. And to do a lot of research. So you make the right decisions for your dog, and for the rest of your family members.
Canine chemotherapy is costly. Its success rate is uncertain. It potentially poses a risk to other family members. It’s something I would never even consider if I was pregnant or had young children in the house. Humans being treated with chemo are told to exercise the utmost caution, to minimize the risk of second hand chemo. We know dogs cannot be as careful. They lick their owner’s face. They have “accidents.”
Personally, for all of the above reasons we’re not putting our dog through chemo. Instead, we’re treating his cancer naturally. Plus, he’s 16 and his days are limited, cancer or not.
Is Chemotherapy Right for My Dog?
This is one of a series of posts I’ve done on canine chemotherapy. I think it’s very important that owners know there are risks involved. As much as we love our pets, we love our human family members even more.