While it is a very unfortunate situation when a pet has been diagnosed with cancer, there are new chemotherapy protocols to allow us to treat previously untreatable tumors. The following is information to help you better understand the available treatments:
1. The goal in treating veterinary cancer patients is not usually to achieve a total cure. We utilize the same drugs used in human chemotherapy but avoid the drastic side effects people undergo, by using a less vigorous regimen. By using the new state of the art drugs, we try to prolong the pet's life, while trying to keep side effects to a minimum.
2. Pets diagnosed with cancer are treated with a combination of drugs. The reason for using a combination rather than a single drug is that we can attack the cancer at different stages of its growth cycle, and also avoid the cumulative side effects of a single drug.
3. Most cancers are rapidly fatal if not treated. Chemotherapy itself can be fatal, and although this rarely happens, it must be mentioned.
4. Many of the drugs utilized are derived from organisms in our environment. For example, the drug Elspar is an enzyme derived from bacteria, and the drug Vincristine is derived from a plant. Some times we use Acemanan, which is a drug derived from the aloe plant.
5. The most common side effects pets usually experience are vomiting, diarrhea, and not eating. This usually occurs 3 to 5 days after a treatment. If this occurs, we try to adjust the dose to achieve remission of the cancer while minimizing side effects. Each animal is slightly different in how they react to the medications. We also monitor the white blood cell count of the animal by doing blood tests between treatments.
6. Although it is uncommon, some animals get sick enough from a treatment to require a hospital stay with IV fluids.
7. Cost is a factor to consider as the drugs we use are not inexpensive. It also requires a time commitment on the pet's owner in that the pet will have to be brought back and forth to the hospital for treatments and blood tests.
8. The positive aspect of this whole matter is that most pets are able to have their lives prolonged by months to years. A majority of pets have minimal side effects from the chemotherapy.