Chemotherapy for Pets. Is it Fair?
“It’s cruel to let them suffer like that” – “My friend had chemo and it’s horrible” – “What’s the point?” – “It’s wrong” – “Why would anyone put their pet through it?”
These are just some of the comments people make when the topic of Chemotherpay for Pets is raised and we certainly can’t blame them for thinking this way. It’s an opinion often based on what they know about people undergoing this serious treatment.
Most of us know at least someone who has been through Chemotherapy and it’s not an easy journey. Some people suffer terrible side effects and the impact on family and friends can be devastating.
However, Chemotherapy in pets differs in a number of ways.
1 – Aims and objectives.
The main goal of Human Chemotherapy is longevity which of course means years if not decades. Pets on the other hand have much shorter life spans than us and that’s reflected in how their treatment is managed. Naturally, all cancers are not the same. Some are more aggressive than others and some types can be managed quite well for a long time with the support of medications. Of course – there is never a cure.
For some pet owners, just gaining a few extra months – or even weeks to share with their beloved companion means a lot to them. And who are we to judge what’s important to any one individual. In many cases, it’s no different to managing a cat with progessive kidney failure or a dog with a deteriorating heart condition. All such diseases are eventually terminal yet we can slow down their progress and ameliorate their symptoms with medications.
2 – Awareness
People undergoing chemotherapy know they have cancer which in itself adds enormous emotional trauma.
Pets on the other hand do not know they’re terminally ill. They’re blissfully unaware of their situation, so don’t suffer the psychological stress that humans do.
3 – Treatment Methods
The third differentiator between how Cancer Treatment is managed in Pets vs Humans is the drug therapy itself.
The dose rates for chemotherapy drugs in pets are much lower than those used in humans. This means there are far less side effects. Pets also do not lose their hair during treatment as the medications generally only affect hair that is continually growing. That’s why you’d be hard pushed to recognise any physical or behavioural differences between a dog undergoing chemotherapy and any other dog on the street.
The medication is given either via a slow intravenous drip or orally using tablets. Patients are generally managed as “outpatients” which means they only need to be hospitalised for the times that the medication is administered and a few hours after treatment for observation. Treatment can often be weeks apart.
Regular blood and other tests as necessary are also conducted to ensure that the medications are working and not causing unecessary harm to healthy cells.
The only determiner in deciding whether to pursue the option of Chemotherapy or discontinue it, is “Quality of Life.” Provided your pet remains pain free and displays normal, healthy behaviours, chemotherapy remains a perfectly suitable treatment for the management of specific terminal diseases.
Many pet owners over the years have appreciated the extra time they were able to share with their pets thanks to Chemotherapy.