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Cancer Drugs for Dogs - What Are Your Options?

Cancer Medications That Help Give Your Dog a Fighting Chance

By Sam Bourne. October 02, 2013 | See Comments

Cancer Drugs for Dogs - What Are Your Options?

Cancer is never easy, and getting that diagnosis from your doctor is bound to change your life in ways you never imagined, even when that doctor is your vet. Finding out your dog has cancer can feel, at times, like an expiration date. But with advancements in medical science, there are many different treatments and cancer drugs for dogs out there to help you fight back.

Cancer drugs for dogs are only one of a number of different treatments available. There are a few methods for excising the mutated area outright, from surgical removal to cryotherapy (targeted freezing) and hyperthermy (surgical burning). For tumors that are not safely accessible, radiology is another option. Immunotherapy is another method, the theory being that by bolstering the patient's immune system, they will be better able to fight off the cancer.

In some cases, taking cancer medications (aka chemotherapy) can be a helpful way to improve the effectiveness of any of the aforementioned treatments. While not typically a curative like it can be in some human cancer cases, chemotherapy in dogs is used predominantly as a secondary, but important, form of treatment. Any step toward being cured is a step in the right direction.

It is important to note that, like in humans, chemo can have some serious side effects, such as loss of appetite, alopecia, damage to the heart, liver, kidneys, or GI tract, difficulty breathing, infertility, low blood count, risk of infection, and a number of other issues. While typically not as bad as the cancer these drugs are fighting against, these side effects can pack a wallop, and it is best if you and your vet talk about all the risks involved in any treatment.

All that being said, here are are a couple of medications that can help manage your dog's condition.

CHEMOTHERAPY

CeeNU (Lomustine)

  • Targets and kills rapidly dividing cells, which is a key characteristic of mutated cells.
  • Useful for treating brain tumors, mast cell tumors, or lymphosarcoma
  • Not to be used with other types of chemotherapy

Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)

  • Interferes with the DNA of mutated cells, resulting in cell death
  • Suppresses the immune system
  • Useful in treating lymphoma, myeloma, and leukemias
  • Often used with other drugs

Fluorouracil (Efudex)

  • A topical chemotherapy classified as an anti-metabolite
  • This cream blocks the growth of mutated cells it comes into contact with
  • For external use only

Leukeran (Chlorambucil)

  • A bifunctional nitrogen mustard type alkylating agent
  • Useful for treating lymphocytic leukemia, ovarian cancer, multiple myeloma, and lymphoma
  • Works by stopping mutated cell growth and suppressing the formation of bonds between antibodies and nucleic acids, dampening the ability for DNA to replicate

Methotrexate (Trexall)

  • An anti-metabolite type medication
  • Treats various neoplastic diseases -- osteosarcoma, leukemia, lymphoma, lung cancer, breast cancer, etc.
  • Has potentially strong interactions and side effects, and should be only used when the benefits greatly outweigh the risks

NON-CHEMOTHERAPY MEDICATIONS

There are also a few different types of cancer that can be treated, in part, with less aggressive treatment, using NSAIDs or Glucocorticoids to help reduce the size of the tumor rather than full on chemo. Here are a couple of those options.

Dexamethasone

  • A glucocorticoid, it suppresses the immune system and reduces inflammation
  • Treats leukemias, lymphomas
  • Not a chemotherapy drug, but often used in conjunction with them

Mirtazapine (Remeron)

  • An appetite stimulant
  • Used to help fight the loss of appetite caused by cancer treatments
  • Does not fight cancer itself in any way

Piroxicam (Feldene)

  • An NSAID-type pain reliever
  • Helps treat bladder cancer, and other types of cancer, by reducing swelling and inflammation
  • Helps reduce the size of neoplasms, or abnormal masses of tissue, which can develop into tumors

Prednisolone (Prelone)

  • A glucocorticoid, this medication reduces swelling and lower the immune response
  • Helps reduce the size of neoplastic growths
  • Can treat a few types of cancer, such as leukemia, or lymphomas
More on Cancer in Dogs

Cancer in Dogs and Cats
Bone Cancer in Cats and Dogs
Nutrition for Dealing with Cancer in Dogs and Cats
Managing Costs of Cancer Treatment for Dogs

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