What Is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is the use of a drug or combination of drugs to slow, shrink or rid the body of cancer cells. Since chemotherapy has a systemic effect, some side effects may be noted.
What Are Common Side Effects Of Chemotherapy?
Side effects of chemotherapy are highly dependent of the drug in use. Each protocol is different and monitoring is tailored to fit each individual situation. Most chemotherapy agents have a “BAG” – Bone marrow suppression, Alopecia (hair loss), and Gastrointestinal – of side effects. The reason these side effects are so common after chemotherapy administration is because these tissues contain cells that are rapidly growing and therefore inherently sensitive to chemotherapy. Therefore, cells such as those found in the bone marrow, as well as gastrointestinal epithelial cells and hair follicle cells that rapidly turnover are quite sensitive to chemotherapy, whereas cells that slowly turnover, or do not turnover (e.g., spinal cord, muscle, etc.) are generally extremely resistant to most chemotherapy agents.
Hair loss is a rare side effect of chemotherapy in dog and cats, though it can occur in any breed of dog.
Gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea) is seen in 15% of dogs and cats receiving the majority of chemotherapy drugs, whereas nausea is thought to be seen in 50%. This side effect is generally seen 3 to 4 days after chemotherapy administration and lasts for 2 to 4 days. Gastroenteritis is the most common side effect noted with chemotherapeutics.