What are the most common chemotherapy drugs used and their side
Below is a description of some of the
most common chemotherapy drugs used and their typical side effects, as described in the Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine
(2005). You can also learn more about other chemo drugs HERE.
Although Prednisone is not officially a chemotherapy drug, and is frequently used to
treat a variety of conditions, it is commonly used as part of a chemotherapy protocol, which is why it is included here.
- Increased thirst - drinking large amounts of water
- Increased need to urinate (from drinking so much water!)
- Significantly increased appetite
- Can cause some mild behavior changes
- More prone to overheating/exertion during exercise
In some cases in which pet guardians could not afford the cost of chemotherapy, Prednisone has been used
alone to treat Lymphoma. Although it is generally a short-term fix, it can buy some extra time with your pup if no other
Can cause an allergic reaction.
As a result, Diphenhydramine (Benedryl) is usually given to the dog before this drug is administered.
Any reaction to this drug would normally occur within 15-20 minutes of administration. As a result, you may be asked
to wait with your dog in the lobby for a few minutes after administration to ensure that no side effects occur.
Vincristine Side Effects:
This drug was consistently the most difficult one for Georgia to tolerate, although
for many, it is not a problem. Side effects can include:
- Loss of Appetite
- Low white
blood cell count (WBC)
- Tremors (usually a signal to me that her
WBC count had dropped very low)
- Tissue damage at injection site
If this drug leaks outside the vein,
it will begin to kill skin tissue. After one treatment, Georgia developed blackened skin that later became flaky and
red. It ultimately remained a grey, hairless patch on her leg and was thereafter more prone to sunburn, but didn’t
- Low white blood cell count (usually occurs 5-7 days after administration)
- Can be toxic to the bladder
and cause bloody urine or chronic cystitis, so often lasix or a diruetic is given along with this drug to ensure that
your dog expels this drug from their bladder regularly.
generally preferred to give Georgia a special treat of “tuna water” - the water from a can of tuna mixed with
plenty of fresh water in her bowl, which she would always drink until it was gone. I always made sure to take Georgia
out at least once during the night on the day that she received this drug, to be sure that the drug wasn’t staying in
her bladder overnight. Dandelion (found at any health food store in capsule form) is also a well known and safe duretic
herb and can be used instead of conventional drugs.
Adriamycin (doxorubicin) Side Effects:
This drug has a cumulative effect on the heart. If your dog receives too much of this drug over
the course of treatment, they could develop heart problem. As a result, only so much of this drug can be given to your
dog in their lifetime. The vet should monitor your dog’s heart throughout treatment to ensure that it is not causing
any problems, and if your dog has any existing heart conditions, you may want to consider an alternate drug, such as Mitoxantrone.
In some cases, you may want to consider having an x-ray or ultrasound done prior to each Adriamycin treatment to confirm that
there is no heart damage present. Using a CoQ10 supplement may help reduce the cardiotoxicity of this drug.
- Nausea or Vomiting
(usually occurs 2-5 days after administration)
- Loss of appetite
This drug is often the one that causes the most side effects for
dogs, although Georgia was not bothered by the Doxorubicin.