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Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS  
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Specialties: surgery

Interests: Pet Owner Education
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Interview with a cancer specialist

Sep 19, 2009 - 5 comments
Tags:

Dog

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cat

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PET

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chemo

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Chemotherapy

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side-effects

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Cancer

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specialist

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oncologist



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


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by Tammy2009, Sep 20, 2009
That's very interesting how animals react differently than humans to the same medications (or at least I'm assuming the chemotherapy drugs are the same).  

I'm glad I have never had to go through any of that with my animals -knock on wood-

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by AireScottie, Sep 21, 2009
Hope I'll never have to use this, but good info.  How often are pets treated with chemo instead of surgery?  Less seriously, how many dogs and cats get really upset about hair falling out?  I think that's more a primate (aka owner) concern :)

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by Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVSBlank, Sep 21, 2009
Hi AireScottie,

I'm not sure how often pets get surgery vs. chemo.

However, one doesn't exclude the other.

We often do surgery first, then recommend chemo in some specific cases.

They complement each other.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Pet surgeon and author of a free, weekly newsletter for true pet lovers, available at DrPhilZeltzman.com


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by AireScottie, Sep 23, 2009
Guess I wasn't very specific.  I was curious if there has been the same trend as with humans of treating more often with chemo before surgery to shrink tumors or use chemo exclusively where once there would have been surgery.  It was just idle curiousity though.  Thanks for your reply :)

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by Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVSBlank, Sep 23, 2009
Exellent point.

Yes, in some cases, chemo (or radiation) can be done before surgery.

Rather than a trend, I would say that it all depends on the patient, the tumor, the owner, the surgeon etc.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Pet surgeon and author of a free, weekly newsletter for true pet lovers, available at DrPhilZeltzman.com


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