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

Side Effect Definition

Side Effect: In any given treatment, a certain effect is desired; for example, a desired effect of surgery might be tumor removal. Any effect other than the desirable effect is called a side effect. Side effects can range from harmless (loss of hair) to harmful (a life-threatening staph infection). Sometimes side effects increase with higher intensity treatments – for example, the higher a chemotherapy dose, the more likely a dog is to vomit. Sometimes, however, side effects are “idiosyncratic.” Idiosyncratic side effects are (non-allergic) side effects where the severity of the reaction is not in proportion to the dose of the treatment (how much is given). Idiosyncratic reactions, not seen in large numbers of dogs, seem to be caused by individual variation. In other words, one dog reacted badly to that medication, although the vast majority of dogs would not, even at the same dose. It is important to keep in mind that side effects can happen for several reasons, and cannot always be anticipated. It is, therefore, important to ask about the possible side effects of any treatment you are considering.

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