Chemotherapy Side Effects in Dogs

If you're familiar with human chemotherapy side effects, you may expect that this procedure would result in some potentially very serious damages to your pet's health. However, dogs tend to experience much milder side effects than humans do while undergoing chemotherapy. Though this treatment is used to treat the same type of conditions, it's generally seen as much safer for pets than for humans, with the main problem areas affected by chemotherapy being the skin and hair follicles, the intestinal lining, and the bone marrow.

Gastrointestinal Effects from Chemotherapy

Side effects to the gastrointestinal tract are among the most common of those occurring as a result of chemotherapy. These effects typically result from the basic breaking down of the inner lining of the intestines. The most common gastrointestinal effects that occur in dogs include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Black, tarry stools

The severity of these conditions can vary tremendously from case to case, and it's difficult to predict how chemotherapy will affect your pet in particular. While most of these gastrointestinal effects are relatively mild and tend to go away on their own as the treatment continues, they can be moderate or even very severe. It's important to work with your vet to ensure that your pet does not require additional treatment; some dogs will require hospitalization and fluid therapy in order to treat massive diarrhea.

Bone Marrow Effects from Chemotherapy

One of the biggest and most dangerous side effects of chemotherapy in dogs has to do with the bone marrow. The bone marrow is responsible for regulating and producing both white and red blood cells in your pet's body. If the bone marrow becomes damaged, the white blood cell count is likely to go down. Because of the importance of white blood cells in your pet's immune system, as this count goes down your pet's immune system will be compromised somewhat. This means that he'll be much more susceptible to a range of diseases and to infections in particular.

While infections can be mild, others are very serious and potentially even life threatening. Many vets will place pets undergoing chemotherapy under a dose of antibiotics as a preventative measure.

Dog Hair Loss as a Chemotherapy Side Effect

Dogs with short or wiry hair are particular susceptible to hair follicle damage as a result of chemotherapy. The hair follicles become damaged and smaller and end up shedding the hairs off. While this damage is generally not permanent, it may cause your pet some discomfort and disrupt his appearance. Many vets will recommend shaving parts of your pet's hair off as the hair begins to fall out. This can not only protect your pet's comfort but also save you from having to deal with excessive shedding in your home.

Chemotherapy can affect different dogs in different ways, and there may be other reactions that your pet experiences to this type of treatment. For this reason, it's crucial that you work closely with your vet in order to monitor your pet's health while he undergoes chemotherapy treatment.