Can Dogs Receive Chemotherapy? Find out!

Chemotherapy is often prescribed for one of the most common cancers in dogs, lymphoma, as well as for some other malignant tumors.
Can Dogs Receive Chemotherapy? Find out!

Last update: 19 June, 2019

Dogs can also get cancer and they also need special treatments. These treatments should help eliminate or stop the carcinogenic cells from spreading, and to alleviate their pain. However, having in mind that they’re weaker than us, we could ask ourselves: can dogs receive chemotherapy? Is it possible for dogs? Whether or not your furry friend is going through this, in this article you’ll find the answer to that question.

We’ll tell you all about it and go over some other questions that often arise around this matter.

Chemotherapy for dogs

A sick pet before getting chemotherapy for dogs.

Indeed, there’s an option when trying to treat cancer that afflicts dogs. Or at least to stop its destructive effects. However, we understand that people whose dog has cancer or those who aren’t familiar with this matter may have some questions. These are some of them:

Which kinds of cancer can be treated with chemotherapy for dogs?

Doctors can’t treat every cancer that dogs may have using chemo. The most common one is the lymphocyte tumor, also called Lymphosarcoma, and the mast cell tumor (a.k.a Mastocytoma).

About 80% of the cases of these two types of cancer respond favorably, and some increase the dog’s chance of living for a year or more.

How is chemo given to dogs?

The way to carry it out is similar to how it’s done in humans. Cancer causes carcinogen cells to multiply much faster than the body’s healthy cells and they kill the normal cells. Chemotherapy destroys the cancer cells, eliminating any malignant tumors the animal may have.

The smaller the tumor, the more likely the doctors will remove it using this method. However, when tumors are large, these malignant cells sometimes become dormant. In addition, it’s much more difficult to identify them.

Can any dog receive chemotherapy?

This may vary from dog to dog, depending on the type of cancer they have and what their owners decide. Veterinarians use chemo treatments mostly in these kinds of scenarios:

  • Tumors that affect most of the dog’s body, such as those that attack the lymphatic system.
  • When doctors located a tumor and expect it to spread easily to all parts of the body. First, they’ll surgically operate on the tumor, and then apply chemotherapy.
  • When tumors can’t be eliminated completely using surgery.
  • When doctors can’t remove a tumor because of its large size. In this case, they will use chemo to reduce or stop its growth.

Experts don’t recommend chemo for dogs who have metastatic cancer. Especially if it has already affected their vital organs, as it would only further weaken their health.

Are there any side effects? Which ones?

Unlike in humans, the effects of chemo on dogs are mild and transient, if anything. The probability of suffering any side effects is 5%. The most common ones are the following:

  • Disturbance in the digestive system such as lack of appetite, nausea, or vomiting.
  • Lowered defenses.
  • Hair loss.

Can dogs also receive radiotherapy?

A sick dog waiting for his chemotherapy.

Yes, dogs can receive it as an alternative treatment to chemotherapy but only those with cancers that aren’t too aggressive. Especially cancer tumors that form in their snouts.

However, this therapy is absent in countries such as Spain, for instance. We hope many other countries will soon start to implement it.

As you can see, if your dog has cancer, don’t worry. There are a lot of things that doctors can do to save their life. Talk to your vet about what steps to take and what would be the best treatment for your dear pet.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.