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Pet Chemo

Chemotherapy is used in the treatment of many cancers to kill tumor cells and improve survival times in dogs and cats with cancer. Our first and foremost goal is to be as aggressive as possible, but to balance that with maintaining a good quality of life with minimal side effects. Chemotherapy is generally very well tolerated by most dogs and cats, with only about 10 to 15% of patients experiencing side effects. In general, the most common side effects of chemotherapy are mild gastrointestinal effects (decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea) and bone marrow suppression (most commonly a decrease in the white blood cell count or platelets). We will check bloodwork before every dose of chemotherapy to make sure that the cell counts are in a safe range for treatment. We may also ask you to have bloodwork checked in between treatments in some cases (usually these can be done with your family veterinarian). Some drugs can also affect the liver or kidneys, so we may need to check these before treatments as well. Please refer to the web pages for each chemotherapy medication which will discuss any other side effects that may be seen with each drug.

Chemotherapy medications come in many different forms. Some medications are given at home, by mouth, often in a small treat for your pet. Sometimes these medications can even be made into a formula that is a liquid and that tastes good, so your friend doesn’t mind receiving them. Other medications must be given by injection. Some injections must be given into the vein, but some are given under the skin. Most of the time, your pet is held while wide awake by one of our staff members for the injection. Some of the injections are very fast but other must be given over 20 to 30 minutes. A catheter may need to be placed into a vein which will require a small patch of fur be shaved.

The following is a list of some potential side effects that you may see at home, and suggestions on how to deal with them. Please do not hesitate to call us if you have any concerns about how your pet is doing. At night and over the weekend, emergency veterinarians are available around the Valley to help.

Haircoat:
Dogs and cats almost never lose their hair following chemotherapy. Rarely, they will lose whiskers or eyelashes. Sometimes the hair changes consistency (i.e. a curly haired dog becomes straighter or vice versa).

Nausea:
Symptoms of nausea include drooling and lack of appetite
If your pet was prescribed an anti-nausea medication, such as Cerenia or metoclopramide, you can give this – if not, please call the clinic and we often prescribe something
Encourage your pet to eat with small meals of a bland diet such as boiled chicken breast or ground turkey and rice
Call the clinic if nausea persists for more than 24 hours

Vomiting:
If your pet was prescribed an anti-nausea medication, such as Cerenia or metoclopramide, you can give this – if not, please call the clinic and we often prescribe something
After an episode of vomiting, please hold pet off food and water for 4 to 6 hours, then try introducing small amounts of water and/or ice cubes.  If your pet drinks and does not vomit, you can try introducing small, frequent meals of a bland diet such as cooked chicken breast or ground turkey and rice
If the vomiting persists, or your pet’s condition is deteriorating, please call the hospital or emergency service  immediately, as more aggressive treatment may be needed.

Diarrhea:
If your pet was prescribed anti-diarrhea medication, such as metronidazole, then you can go ahead and use this for 2 to 3 days or as needed – if you do not have any medication at home, please call and we can prescribe something.
If the appetite is picky, you can feed a bland diet such as cooked chicken breast or ground turkey and rice either alone, or with the normal diet.
Please call if there is any blood in the stool, or if the diarrhea does not resolve within 3 or 4 days

Fever:
Depending on the chemotherapy drug, the white blood cell count can reach its lowest point between 7 and 14 days after treatment.  The main risk during this time, if the white blood cell count goes extremely low, is infection.  Infection may cause lethargy and a fever.  If you are concerned about your pet, you can monitor the temperature rectally at home.  You can use a human digital thermometer and lubricate the tip with KY jelly or Vaseline.  A normal rectal temperature is 100°F to 102°F.  If your pet’s temperature is over 103°F, he/she should be seen by a veterinarian.  Fever secondary to infection due to a low white blood cell count is an emergency, and your pet needs to be seen by us, your family veterinarian, or an emergency clinic as soon as possible. 

Chemotherapy in dogs and cats is always scary to think about but with advancements in the medications available to us, most tolerate it extremely well. Please give Arizona Veterinary Oncology a call today to schedule an appointment to discuss what is best for your pet.

How to handle chemotherapy at home:
Chemotherapy drugs have the potential to cause damage to normal cells.  Exposure to chemotherapy drugs or patient waste can pose a risk, despite the fact that the concentrations of drugs are very low. There is no real risk associated with routine contact with your pet such as grooming, playing, or handling of food and water bowls.  Infants, immunosuppressed individuals (examples-HIV and/or cancer patients receiving therapy), and women who are pregnant or nursing should not be disposing of or handling the animal’s urine or feces.  Certain chemotherapy drugs and their by-products may be excreted in the feces or urine for up to 96 hours following administration.  Should your pet have an accident in the house, wear disposable rubber or latex gloves, blot the area with flushable paper, and clean the area twice with a detergent solution.   If you are administering chemotherapy pills at home, wear disposable latex gloves when handling the pills and wash your hands after handling. Do not break, or crush, or open the capsules. It is important that these medications be kept out of the reach of children.  Should accidental ingestion of chemotherapeutic drugs occur, contact a poison control center immediately.  Should any unused chemotherapy drugs remain after treatment, please return them to the oncologist so that they can be disposed of safely.
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We are currently accepting resumes for a full time experienced veterinary technician and a Medical Oncologist in our North Scottsdale/ Glendale location. We are also looking for an experienced CSR and veterinary technician in our Gilbert location.  More details available here.

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Dr. Venable and her staff were mentioned in a local magazine, Troon Living, when a client's dogs were selected as Troon's Pet of the Month

Featured Reviews

- Dan C.

I can't recommend Dr. Boshoven and his wonderful staff highly enough. I am extremely grateful for the outstanding care my skittish ten year old cat Sandy received throughout the process of curing his hyperthyroidism via administration of radioactive iodine. Dr. Boshoven's credentials, training, and expertise are impressive. He is a good communicator and he explained Sandy's treatment plan in a clear, concise manner. His veterinary clinic is the only one in the Phoenix area that features a technetium scan which enables Dr. Boshoven to calculate a custom-tailored dosage of I-131 for each patient, ensuring optimal outcomes. I was particularly happy that Dr. Boshoven and his team were able to manage Sandy gently and very well even though he suffers from fear-based aggression related to the significant hardships he'd encountered before I adopted him. Dr. Boshoven's staff, notably Rudy and Allie, reflect the same high level of patience, professionalism, and compassion which he demonstrates. It was difficult for me to be separated from Sandy for five days, but I was comforted by the knowledge that I had left him in very good, kind hands. He came home cheerful and well, not in any way traumatized by his experiences at Arizona Vet Oncology. I am so happy that I can look forward to many more good and happy years with Sandy now that his hyperthyroidism has been cured. Dr. Boshoven and his staff are my heroes!

- Gayle A.

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