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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

The Toxicity of Potent Dog Chemo Drug Doxorubicin

Updated: January 4th, 2021


Is your dog on doxorubicin? Here’s what you need to know about this potent, common chemotherapy agent.

Vets and veterinary oncologists use Doxorubicin (also called Adriamycin) in many different chemotherapy plans.

Common dog cancers treated with this drug include lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, other sarcomas, and carcinomas.

This is not a mickey-mouse drug.  It is one of the main players in conventional dog cancer chemo treatments.  It also has corresponding side effects that, from time to time, are heavy duty and should be taken into account.

NOTE: The reader should be advised that the purpose of this content is not to crucify doxorubicin.  It has helped many dogs.  Rather, this is information that should be in your head as an informed advocate of your dog’s health.

How Doxorubicin Is Given

Doxorubicin is given as an injection in the vein at the vet hospital.  If the tip of the catheter used to deliver the drug is not in the vein (but still under the skin), the drug will end up in the tissues around the vein.

Doxorubicin is very toxic to living tissue when given in this way and will cause this tissue around the vein to die.

Doxorubicin Side Effects

In addition to injuries caused by bad injection technique — which are NOT common, but can occur — doxorubicin may also cause stomach upset, inflammation of the colon, and delay the regrowth of hair. Some dogs will develop allergic reactions during doxorubicin injections. It can also cause bone marrow suppression (anemia and low white blood cell and platelet counts).

It is known to cause damage to the muscle in the heart, in some dogs, which can be quite serious. Check out this abstract for more info on doxorubicin toxicity.

How to Mitigate Side Effects

In the next post, I will discuss the use of common, over-the counter-supplements that should be considered to help alleviate a big toxicity with this drug: heart damage

And of course, you can find out more about this drug and every other chemo agent, in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. Dr. Ettinger and I also cover multiple ways to support your dog with and without chemotherapy.

Best to all,

Dr D


Leave a Comment

  1. Melodie Rubio on July 13, 2019 at 3:07 am

    Our dog was just switched from CCNU to Doxorubicin. He’s a 20 lb shih tzu maltese mix with histiocystic sarcoma. He had a splenectomy on 4/29/19 and now it has spread to his liver. We have been following the diet plan, Apocaps, and K9 Immunity from the onset. Is it still safe to give the Apocaps with Doxorubicin? I’ve searched the blog and could not find anything on it.

  2. Curly on December 22, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    My dog has anal gland adenocarcinoma with metastasis to the liver. After surgery to remove the tumors we started 5 treatments of Carboplatin which failed to stop the growth and he now has progressive disease. We’re 3 days into a new round of Doxorubicin and he hasn’t wanted food for the last 2 days. Keenly looking forward to your next post about supplements to protect the heart muscle, thank you for covering these topics.

  3. Melissa on April 20, 2018 at 4:45 am

    Hello, my 9yr old Labrador is undergoing CHOP chemo for lymphoma and has had 2 treatments of Dox. Both times he has become so weak/drunk like he stops walking. Out vet doesn’t have any answers for us. Anyone else experience this?

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