Types of Chemotherapy for Dogs

The types of chemotherapy used when the dog is affected by cancer depend on factors such as the type of tissue affected, the systems affected and whether the dog has had surgery. Some chemotherapy drugs are given as injections, while there are also chemo pills. Slow infusions, which imply the dog's staying in the hospital for a day, can also be used.

Chemotherapy drugs work by attacking the malignant cells, while these are growing and dividing. Fast reproducing cells such as the cancerous cells are killed in this way. Healthy cells may also be killed along with the malignant ones, leading to side effects. However, the side-effects are less severe in dogs than in humans.


L-asparaginase is on the market under the brand names:

  • Elspar
  • Oncaspar
  • Erwinase

It is available as an injectable treatment only and cannot be administered in the home. L-asparaginase is used mostly in cases of lymphoma, as well as in mast cell tumors.

The side-effects of L-asparaginase may include:

  • The injection can cause anaphylactic shock in some dogs, although this is rare.
  • Elevated blood sugar levels
  • Liver or pancreatic disease
  • Interfere with blood clotting
  • Vomiting

The bone marrow, unlike with other chemotherapy agents, is not suppressed, and the production of blood cells is not disturbed substantially.


Cisplatin is used for carcinomas and osteosarcomas and is administered intravenously. The treatment should be accompanied with increased hydration to protect the kidneys. Therefore, the dog will have to be hospitalized for the day and you will have to provide lots of fluids when at home.


  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cisplatin accumulates in the kidneys and liver. Kidney function is monitored throughout the treatment.
  • Cisplatin can cause bone marrow suppression. Therefore, complete blood cell count is performed regularly.
  • Nerve problems in the rear legs.


Carboplatin is also known as Paraplatin. It is very similar to Cisplatin, but will suppress the bone marrow activity.

Carboplatin is only used if Cisplatin fails and it is mostly prescribed for osteosarcoma and other kinds of bone cancer.


Chlorambucil is administered daily or once every other day, orally. The drugs work mainly by stopping cell reproduction.

Chlorambucil is used for the treatment of lymphocytic leukemia, lymphoma, ovarian cancer and multiple myeloma.

The side-effects of Chlorambucil include:

  • Anemia and weaken the immune system, as the drugs suppress the bone marrow
  • An overdose leads to seizures.
  • Hair loss is common

The costs of chemotherapy can vary greatly depending on the size of the dog, the area you live in and also whether you choose a drug that has a history in the market or a new emerging treatment. For owners that cannot afford chemotherapy treatment, there is also the alternative of having the dog participate in a drug testing program, as many cancer drugs are first given to dogs as test patients, before being marketed for humans.