Vincristine Side Effects in Dogs

Vincristine is a prescription medicine formulated to help moderate the growth of cancerous tumors. While it is a powerful and effective drug, Vincristine side effects are many and oftentimes severe enough that they eliminate this treatment as an option. However, if your dog is suffering from a cancer of the lymph nodes or of the blood, Vincristine is almost always one of the best treatment methods. Continue reading for an overview of this medicine and the potential adverse effects associated with it.

Overview of Vincristine for Veterinary Use

Vincristine is a vinca alkaloid type drug that is formulated for use in humans. It is oftentimes prescribed by veterinarians as an extra-label treatment method for canine cancers of various types. The drug itself functions by targeting cells that divide quickly, such as cancer cells. It binds to the proteins of these cells and inhibits them from dividing, effectively killing off the cells and preventing further growth.

Side Effects of Vincristine

One of the concerns surrounding Vincristine is that it is impossible to direct the drug toward certain cells over others. While it generally targets fast-dividing cells, cancerous growths are not the only things that are affected. Hair cells and gastrointestinal cells also divide and replicate quickly, and it can be very difficult to control the effects of Vincristine.

Effects on the Hair and Gastrointestinal Lining

Because your dog's hair and gastrointestinal lining are also affected by Vincristine, both of these systems tend to suffer from inhibited growth and other damage as well. While this commonly results in hair loss, which isn't generally a serious concern, the effects on the gastrointestinal lining may be serious. Vincristine may cause ulcers, internal bleeding and other damage to the stomach and intestines. As a result, it is important to monitor your pet's gastrointestinal health while he is taking Vincristine, and this drug should not be provided to dogs with known gastrointestinal conditions.

Effects on the Skin

Vincristine is intended for intravenous injection only. It can cause damage to skin cells if it is injected in the wrong location, and may cause gangrene or necrosis in other areas of the body. Because of this, it is crucial that you work in close conjunction with a veterinarian while your pet is taking Vincristine. Do not attempt to inject the medicine into his system without proper training and experience.

Other Side Effects

Vincristine may also cause a number of alternate side effects. These are generally milder than those listed above and include:

  • Nausea
  • Disorientation
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Liver damage

Vincristine may react with other drugs in your pet's system to cause significant organ damage, particularly to the liver. If your pet has any preexisting conditions or is taking any other medications, consult with your veterinarian about these situations before beginning a treatment program involving Vincristine.

As with all medications, it is crucial that you follow your veterinarian's recommended dosing and administration methods. Let your vet know if your pet experiences any of the side effects listed above, or if his symptoms appear to worsen over time. With your careful monitoring, Vincristine can help to halt the growth of harmful or fatal tumors in your dog's system.