Important Issues in Chemotherapy - Dog Cancer Blog

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

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Important Issues in Chemotherapy

The problem with chemotherapy, at least traditional drugs, is that it does not always target just the cancer cells.  What I mean by that is the chemo drug may not care if it shuts down a dividing body cell or a dividing cancer cell.

Chemotherapy drugs tend, with some exceptions, to go after cells that divide.  True, cancer cells, by their nature, are continually dividing much faster than body cells.  They have no normal end-of-life stage (apoptosis) leading to healthy cell replacement. So it would be seem logical to target dividing cells if one were to try to hit cancer cells but not body cells.  This has been the traditional strategy.

Cyclophosphamide, Lomustine (CCNU), doxorubicin (Adriamycin), vincristine (Oncovin), prednisone, and more all are targeted in this way.  There are many other ways that chemo drugs work and they have their own side effects, but these are very common.

However, the body does have normal (non-cancerous) cells that divide faster than other  normal cells and are affected by chemo drugs.  These fast dividers are located mostly in the lining of the stomach and the intestine, and in the bone marrow.

When dividing cells lining the stomach and intestine are injured, it causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, ulcerations, bleeding, and low energy levels.  This is what accounts for some of the adverse chemo reactions.

If the cells in the bone marrow are suppressed, the number of cells that come from the bone marrow drop.  These cells are the red and white blood cells, and the platelets.  If those cells go down, we see anemia, risk of infection, bleeding tendencies, low energy levels, and loss of appetite.

There are supplements that can be used that may help with these problems. These are covered in detail in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide and I have posted on them as well.

I will be presenting on this topic (what you need to know about chemo and how to lessen reactions) in this Sunday’s webinar.  It will be recorded if you are unable to listen live.

Beta glucans are found in several supplements.  These supplements can help with the low white blood cell levels and low energy levels, as does Astralagus.  Cimetidine and ginger can help with nausea and loss of appetite.

Please check with your veterinarian when making medical decisions for your loved dog.

Best to all,

Dr D

About the Author: Demian Dressler, DVM


Dr. Demian Dressler, DVM is known as the "dog cancer vet" and is author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog's Life Quality and Longevity.