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MissionVet Specialty & Emergency

Veterinary Chemotherapy: What to Expect

Girl Hugging Golden Retriever

Chemotherapy, which is treating cancer with medications, may be one of the oldest forms of cancer treatment, but its reliable efficacy for some cancers makes it part of many treatment plans our oncology team prescribes. Chemotherapy is often used in addition to other treatments, such as surgery, radiation, and immunotherapy, as part of a multimodal approach to attack cancer from multiple angles. A variety of medications are available that can help us manage your pet’s cancer to give her the best possible quality of life, which is always our top priority. Here is what you can expect if your family veterinarian has diagnosed your pet with cancer, and has referred you to our veterinary oncology department for chemotherapy. 

Your pet’s pre-treatment evaluation

Before beginning cancer treatments, your pet will undergo a thorough evaluation to gain information about her cancer and general health status, which may include:

  • Blood work


    — Blood testing will let us know if your pet’s organs are functioning properly, and whether she is healthy enough to start treatments, or will first require stabilization.

  • Urinalysis


    — Urine evaluation provides information about your pet’s kidney function, which may affect how chemotherapy drugs are metabolized and eliminated from her body. 

  • Imaging


    — Imaging modalities, such as X-rays, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be used to locate cancerous tissue, measure tumors, and help obtain biopsies. 

  • Biopsy


    — Collecting a sample of cancerous tissue, lymph nodes, or other organs helps us determine your pet’s cancer type, whether it has spread to other body parts, and its invasiveness. 

The information gained will give us an impression of your pet’s overall health, and allow us to stage your pet’s cancer to determine its local and systemic extent. Our veterinary oncology team will then prescribe a treatment plan that best fits your pet’s cancer.

Chemotherapy treatments for pets

Chemotherapy medications are often administered intravenously during office appointments; however, some forms can be administered orally in the comfort of your home. The medications used, number and frequency of treatments, and treatment duration will depend on your pet’s cancer type and treatment response. You can expect frequent oncology appointments during the treatment period to assess your pet’s response, and to monitor for side effects. 

Chemotherapy side effects in pets

Pet owners are often concerned about the side effects their pet may experience from chemotherapy medications, particularly since human chemotherapy treatments can be debilitating. But, veterinary oncology focuses on maintaining a pet’s quality of life, and the medication doses cause far fewer side effects than human chemotherapy treatments. Side effects that do occur are typically mild, and can be controlled with medications to keep your pet comfortable and happy throughout her treatment. Your pet’s comfort, and your valuable time with her, are the center of every treatment plan, and we can alter treatments to maintain a good quality of life if a medication upsets your pet. 

If your pet has recently been diagnosed with cancer, contact us at 210-737-7373 to schedule a consultation about treatment options with our oncology team.