Chemotherapy for Pets. The Great Divide

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.

Me included.

Vet & Pet Trends from the States

Some things are different in the U.S.A

Pets welcome at select Hotels

Book a hotel Stateside and you’re likely to share the lift or queue up at the check in counter with more than just people. It seems some U.S Hotels are embracing our love of animals and opening their doors to our 4 legged companions. And according to hotel managers – the numbers are growing. It wasn’t unusual for us to see families pulling up at the door with the family pets in tow or sharing the lifts with a tail wagging guest. The policies between hotels vary with some imposing weight restrictions on furry visitors, some charging a a non refundable “soiling” fee and others which provide this service at no additional cost. Interesting to say the least.

IMG_5738I snapped this pic of a dog waiting for her owner to finish breakfast in a hotel in New Mexico.

Her name is “Shelby. “She’s 15 years old and travels eveywhere with her family.

More Holistic Pet Food Options

With more smaller pet food manufacturers producing their own brands of premium holistic foods, pet owners have access to a greater range than we have here in Australia.

That’s not to mention some of the more unusual treats for dogs like Buffalo chews and Deer Antlers.

Highly nutritious we’re told.

More Vet Clinics offering Laser Therapy and performing Stell Cell Procedures

While we might be one of very few clinics in Australia offering Laser therapy for our patients, this modality is embraced by a number of clinics in the States and growing in popularity.

The same applies for the Adipose Stem Cell Procedure.

Anaethsesia Free Dentistry offered by Pet stores and Grooming Parlours

This is a touchy one! While we have read about this emerging trend, it wasn’t until we saw it offered in select grooming stores that we realised its popularity.

This is NOT a good idea at all. Its rise in acceptance by pet owners as an alternative to a professional veterinary dental is largely due to the fact that no anaesthesia is needed. The down side of this is that this does not include the most important cleaning below the gum line where dental disease actually originates from. In other words, it covers up dental disease until it’s too late to reverse.

That’s why the anaesthsia is needed. It would be too painful to perform otherwise.

We certainly hope this trend doesn’t catch on here.

Here’s a link to some pics and more information about the Dangers of “Anaesthesia Free Dentals in Pets”


Finally – the very reason for our trip – to be trained in Thermography. This diagnostic tool is growing in popularity as a non invasive means of gathering important physiological information about a patient – especially horses.

It can be used to highlight a number of different underlying conditions which may or may not be able to be diagnosed via X-Rays or Ultrasound. An interesting tool indeed and we look forward to using it in our practice.