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Caring for Your Pet with Cancer
Precautions In Caring For The Chemotherapy Patient
If Side Effects Occur, the Following Treatments Can Be Done At Home


Caring for Your Pet with Cancer
Introduction
Cancer is not one disease for which there is a single treatment. Many different types of cancer exist and treatment will depend on the type of cancer your pet has.

Some patients may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of these therapies. Diagnostic tests such as blood work, X-rays, ultrasound, biopsies, CT or MRI may be recommended to determine whether your pet's cancer has spread (the “stage” of cancer). These tests are important to help determine what treatment options are best for your pet and determine prognosis.

At IVO we strive to provide you and your veterinarian a comprehensive evaluation of your pet's condition and options for therapy so that the best treatment decision may be made for your pet.

Having a beloved pet diagnosed with cancer can be frightening. But there is hope.

Many treatments now exist for pets with cancer and new treatments are continuously being developed. For some forms of cancer, treatment may affect a "cure." For those cancers where cure is not possible, treatment can enhance a patient's quality of life and improve survival.

Cancer therapies are generally well tolerated in animals with minimal to no side effects. Most pets receiving cancer therapy have good to excellent quality of life. Many can and will remain active. Minimal restrictions are placed on the pet with cancer, including exercise. Pets with cancer have continued to swim, run agility, play ball, or be "couch potatoes." One patient even won a herding trial during his course of chemotherapy!
 
Caring for Your Pet with Cancer



Precautions In Caring For The Chemotherapy Patient
The risks of living with a pet receiving chemotherapy is relatively small. However, we want owners to be aware of not only the process and side effects of a pet's treatment, but also any potential hazards to the human family members. The precautions listed below are to minimize your exposure to chemotherapy drugs and/or their metabolites. These same precautions are practiced by the IVO staff daily when caring for chemotherapy patients.

Administering Oral Chemotherapy
Some chemotherapy protocols will ask that the owner administer oral chemotherapy at home. It is important to wear gloves when handling these medications. Gloves are usually provided by IVO to the owner for administration of oral chemotherapy. Refrain from cutting or crushing the pills. If the patient's dose warrants cutting the pill for accurate drug dosing, we will do this for you when the prescription is filled. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water if you accidentally come in contact with the medication. You may bring the gloves and pill vials back to IVO for disposal.

Cleaning Up Waste
Most chemotherapy drugs are excreted in the urine and feces for a period of up to 48-72 hours after chemotherapy administration (depending on the drug). The following are guidelines for cleaning up after your pet:
  1. Dogs should NOT be walked in public areas for at least 72 hours after being treated or in any area where children are allowed to play. Cats receiving chemotherapy should be isolated with a separate litter box from other cats in the household if possible. If it is not possible to separate cats, be sure to scoop the litter box multiple times daily during the 72 hours after treatment to minimize the other cats' exposure to any drug metabolites.

2. Latex gloves should be worn if handling the pet's waste, including vomit, within 72 hours of the last treatment.

3. Feces may be flushed down the toilet or double bagged and disposed of in the regular garbage. For cats, litterbox waste may be flushed down the toilet (if flushable litter) or double bagged and disposed of in the regular garbage. Outside areas where urine is voided may be hosed down regularly.

4. Contaminated bedding should be washed in the laundry separate from other articles of clothing, bedding, etc.

Bleach or Lysol or equivalent products may be used to clean surfaces contaminated by waste.


Other Precautions
Owners who are pregnant, trying to conceive, breastfeeding, immunosuppressed, or taking immunosuppressive drugs should avoid handling chemotherapy and should avoid pet's waste for 72 hours after the last treatment.



If Side Effects Occur, the Following Treatments Can Be Done At Home

Nausea

  1. Symptoms of nausea include drooling, lack of appetite, decreased drinking and/or vomiting.

2. Hold pet off food and offer ice cubes every few hours.

3. Feed small, frequent meals versus one large meal.

4. Call clinic if condition persists for more than 24 hours.

Vomiting
  1. Hold pet off food and water for 12 hours.

2. After 12 hour fast, offer ice cubes, then water, then small bland meals.

3. If vomiting persists during the fast, there is blood in the vomit, or your pet's condition is deteriorating please call the clinic immediately. Depending on the severity of symptoms, hospitalization may be necessary.

4. Call clinic if condition persists for more than 24 hours.

Loss of Appetite (Anorexia)
  1. Feed four small meals per day.

2. Add warm broth and favorite foods to increase flavor and appeal. Heating the food and adding aromatic spices (i.e. garlic powder) may also stimulate the appetite.

3. Call clinic if complete loss of appetite persists for more than 24 hours.

Diarrhea
  1. Keep water available at all times.

2. Give Imodium AD, ½ to 1 tablet every 4 hours.

3. Call clinic if condition persists more than 24 hours.

If there is blood in the stool or your pet's condition is deteriorating please call the clinic immediately.
Depending on the severity of your pet's diarrhea, hospitalization may be necessary.

Fever
  1. Depending on the chemotherapy drug the white blood cell counts can fall to their lowest point between 5-10 days post therapy. Some chemotherapy drugs such as CCNU will cause low white blood cell counts up to 21 days post treatment.

2. Infections that result in a fever may occur if the white blood cell counts are extremely low. Symptoms include extreme lethargy, lack of appetite, and /or vomiting.

3. Learn to monitor your pet's body temperature during therapy. Normal temperature for dogs and cats is 100.0 to 103.0 F. Persistent fever over 103 is cause for concern.

4. If your pet is receiving chemotherapy and has developed a fever, please call the clinic immediately. Fever secondary to chemotherapy and low white blood cell counts is a medical emergency and warrants hospitalization.

Local Injection Site Care
  1. If pain, redness, or soreness develops, apply ice packs for 15 minutes, every 3 hours.

2. Call clinic if condition persists more than 24 hours.

Before Next Visit
  - Your pet may eat normally the morning of the visit (unless directed otherwise as for ultrasound exams).
- Please schedule your appointment at least 1 week in advance.
- Please plan on a minimum wait time of 2.5 - 3 hours for determination of blood cell counts and administration of chemotherapy.
- You may wait with your pet during this time or leave your pet for treatment.

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