Sep 19, 2009
Here are 3 questions I recently asked Dr Sara Fiocchi, a cancer specialist (aka oncologist) at the Veterinary Cancer Group in Tustin, CA.
* Do pets get sick from chemo, like people do?
The majority of pets do not get sick from chemotherapy. This is very important to me because my goal in treating pets with cancer is to prolong a good quality life. In my experience, about 15% of dogs and about 5% of cats will get sick temporarily. Fortunately it is rare (less than 1% in my practice) that they become sick enough to need to be hospitalized. In the few pets that do get sick, we change their treatment to try to make sure they don’t become sick a second time.
* Do pets lose their hair, like people do?
Most pets do not lose their hair, but shaved areas may grow back slowly. Cats may lose their whiskers. Terriers, Sheepdogs, Poodles and other dogs who get hair cuts are likely to have some degree of hair loss, but I have yet to see a pet go completely bald!
* What are the most common side effects of chemo?
Gastrointestinal (tummy) upset including nausea, decreased appetite, vomiting or diarrhea may occur in about 15% of dogs and 5% of cats. If this happens, it is typically mild and can be treated by feeding a bland diet or giving oral medications at home. Some pets’ white cell count may become low, and antibiotics or other medications may be recommended if that happens. Side-effects usually resolve within a day or two if they even occur.
Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Pet surgeon and author of a free, weekly newsletter for true pet lovers, available at DrPhilZeltzman.com