Treating Canine Carcinoma With Chemotherapy

Malignant cancer in dogs, or canine carcinoma, can be treated with chemotherapy and other "anti-cancer" medications. Chemotherapy uses drugs to fight cancer cells, however it is usually not a cure. Chemotherapy is often prescribed for cancers that have spread to several areas of the body. This method of treatment is often used to ease pain and prevent and control the further spread of malignant cells. Even though the cancer may not be completely curable, chemotherapy may bring relief and improve a dog's quality of life.

Chemotherapy Can Induce a Remission

The complete removal of all cancerous cells is ideal but may not be possible in the later stages of the disease. When a tumor cannot be surgically removed, chemotherapy can help by giving many dogs a period of remission. Many remissions last a year or more. Once out of remission, chemotherapy can induce a second and even third remission allowing the dog to live more comfortably. Unlike some treatments, such as radiation, chemotherapy can be administered at home with pills or at a regular veterinary office with injections. Anesthesia is generally not required for chemotherapy patients.

Possible Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Because chemotherapy can have side effects, many veterinarians prescribe this treatment in small doses, in combination with other medications and therapies. Many dogs receiving low doses of chemotherapy show no negative reactions to the medication at all. Dogs that receive higher doses of chemotherapy are more likely to endure noticeable side effects. Possible side effects commonly associate with chemotherapy are loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea and lowered immunity.

Diagnosis, Age and Overall Health of Dog

The effectiveness of any type of treatment depends on early diagnosis. A dog's overall health is also an important factor when considering treatments. Cancers discovered early in an otherwise healthy dog are more likely to be resolved than those found in an advanced state. Dogs in their later years or those with additional medical problems may be better candidates for medications intended to provide comfort and do not require frequent and possibly stressful visits to a veterinary hospital.

Consider All Factors

For many dog owners, especially those with an elderly dog, chemotherapy is not an option they wish to consider. Each case is different and it is up to the individual dog owner to decide what is best and what is possible given all factors. Monetary costs in addition to the temperament, overall heath and age of the dog should be taken into account.