Is Chemo Safe for Dogs?

Chemotherapy is one of the most common treatments for dogs with cancer. In some cases, it can help to extend a dog’s life or even cure them of their cancer altogether. But is it possible for chemo to kill a dog?

Chemo Killed My Dog

“Went to the vet today and my dog passed away. She was such a good girl and I’m heartbroken. The vet thinks it was because of the chemo. RIP sweet girl.”

“In my dog’s case, she had a tumor in her nasal cavity that was causing nosebleeds and breathing problems. Her oncologist and I discussed the risks and benefits of the treatment, and I decided that it was worth the risk because her tumor was growing rapidly. But three days into the chemotherapy treatment, she stopped eating and drinking, which quickly led to kidney failure. We rushed her back to the vet, hoping that we could save her with fluids and drugs. We almost did. But two days later, she died anyway. I was devastated. My dog’s death was sudden and unexpected — even though I knew that chemo treatments could be risky from the start.”

“This is the story of my dog, Roxy. She was diagnosed with cancer about 6 months ago. After consulting with my vet, I decided to take her off all the chemo meds she had been taking for months. I know that sounds crazy to some people but there are many cases where dogs survive for years after chemo has stopped working and dogs have lived longer than expected before starting chemo. I knew Roxy was going downhill fast but I didn’t want her to suffer anymore so I made the decision to let her go. The vet said he could give her another round of chemo which might help or he could just let nature take its course and see how long she would last without treatment. I decided on the latter because I wanted Roxy to be comfortable as long as possible without any more pain or discomfort from chemo treatments which were not working anyway.”

Chemo killed my dog?

In theory, chemo can kill your dog. This can happen in two ways: by killing too much healthy tissue and by weakening their immune system so much that it becomes impossible for them to fight off diseases.

In dogs, the treatments are not always effective and they can result in further complications during chemotherapy. The goal of chemotherapy is the killing of cancerous cells, but it also destroys healthy cells in your dog’s body, which can cause organ failure.

Studies have shown that if the pet has a preexisting heart condition, chemotherapy can make it worse. The severity of this depends on what drug is given and how much.

In addition to heart problems, chemotherapy can cause kidney failure and liver damage. If your dog has an underlying kidney or liver problem, these drugs may make it worse.

You may want to talk to your vet about what you can expect during treatment. It might help if you ask specifically about how this treatment will affect your dog’s health and how it will impact his quality of life.

What are the side effects of chemo on dogs?

Chemotherapy works by stopping or slowing down the growth of cells. It kills cancer cells but can also damage healthy cells — like hair follicles or those found in the digestive tract — depending on which drugs are used and which cells are targeted. This can lead to side effects like hair loss, vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, and fatigue.

Infection: When the body’s defenses are down, the risk of infection is high. Chemotherapy can increase the risk of infection in dogs, so owners should keep an eye out for symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting.

Nausea and vomiting: Many chemotherapy drugs cause nausea and vomiting. If your dog experiences these side effects, it’s important to contact your vet immediately, as excessive vomiting can lead to additional complications such as dehydration.

Diarrhea: Chemotherapy can also cause diarrhea, which like nausea and vomiting can lead to dehydration if not managed properly.

Loss of appetite: Chemotherapy drugs also often cause a loss of appetite in dogs — a serious side effect that can lead to weight loss and other health problems if not addressed quickly.

Excessive thirst and urination: If you notice that your dog is drinking or urinating more than usual during chemotherapy, this may indicate an underlying issue with the kidneys or liver. Contact your vet right away if you notice either of these symptoms.

Increased fatigue: Dogs undergoing chemotherapy will often experience increased fatigue during treatment. While this is normal, they shouldn’t be lethargic; if your dog seems excessively tired or listless, talk to your veterinarian right away.

Chemotherapy drugs can damage the bone marrow causing decreased red blood cell and platelet levels, which may result in anemia and bruising or bleeding more easily than usual. Decreased white blood cell levels (when bone marrow is harmed) make dogs more susceptible to infections.

Most side effects will resolve after treatment, but your dog should be seen by your veterinarian if they do not improve over several days because additional treatment may be necessary.

FAQs about Chemo for dogs

Here’s a comprehensive guide to the frequently asked questions about the safety of chemotherapy in dogs.

What is chemotherapy for dogs?

Chemotherapy is a form of treatment that uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells in a dog’s body. It’s commonly used in combination with surgery and radiation therapy to treat various types of cancer in dogs.

Is chemotherapy safe for dogs?

Yes, chemotherapy is generally considered safe for dogs. However, like any other medical treatment, it can have potential side effects that need to be managed carefully. It’s important to consult with a veterinarian before starting chemotherapy for your dog to assess the potential risks and benefits.

Can chemotherapy cause death in dogs?

In rare cases, chemotherapy can cause death in dogs. However, the risk of death from chemotherapy is low compared to the potential benefits of treating cancer. The likelihood of adverse reactions and fatalities depends on various factors, such as the type and stage of cancer, the dog’s overall health, and the chemotherapy protocol used.

What are the side effects of chemotherapy in dogs?

Chemotherapy can cause a range of side effects in dogs, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, fatigue, and decreased appetite. These side effects can be mild to severe and may occur immediately after treatment or several days later. It’s essential to monitor your dog closely for any adverse reactions and report them to your vet promptly.

How can I manage the side effects of chemotherapy in my dog?

To manage the side effects of chemotherapy in your dog, your vet may recommend various supportive care measures, such as anti-nausea medication, appetite stimulants, pain relief medication, and nutritional supplements. Additionally, it’s crucial to provide your dog with a calm and comfortable environment, plenty of water, and a high-quality diet.

When should I stop chemotherapy for my dog?

The decision to stop chemotherapy for your dog depends on various factors, such as the type and stage of cancer, the dog’s response to treatment, and their overall quality of life. If the side effects of chemotherapy become severe and affect your dog’s quality of life, you may need to consider stopping or adjusting the treatment. Your vet can help you make an informed decision based on your dog’s individual needs and circumstances.

Can I use alternative therapies instead of chemotherapy for my dog?

Alternative therapies, such as herbal remedies and acupuncture, can be used alongside chemotherapy to support your dog’s overall health and well-being. However, there’s no evidence that alternative therapies can replace chemotherapy in treating cancer in dogs. It’s essential to consult with your vet before using any alternative therapies to ensure they’re safe and effective.

Can chemotherapy cure cancer in dogs?

While chemotherapy can help treat cancer in dogs, it’s not always a cure. The effectiveness of chemotherapy depends on various factors, such as the type and stage of cancer, the dog’s overall health, and their response to treatment. Some cancers may be cured or put into remission with chemotherapy, while others may only have a temporary response.

How long does chemotherapy treatment last for dogs?

The length of chemotherapy treatment for dogs varies depending on the type and stage of cancer and the chemotherapy protocol used. Some dogs may require several months of treatment, while others may need ongoing chemotherapy to manage their cancer. Your vet can provide you with an estimated treatment plan based on your dog’s individual needs.

How often will my dog need chemotherapy treatments?

The frequency of chemotherapy treatments for dogs depends on the chemotherapy protocol used and the type and stage of cancer. Some dogs may require weekly or bi-weekly treatments, while others may only need monthly treatments. Your vet can provide you with a recommended treatment schedule based on your dog’s individual needs.

Will my dog need to stay in the hospital for chemotherapy treatments?

Most chemotherapy treatments for dogs can be administered on an outpatient basis, meaning your dog won’t need to stay in the hospital overnight. However, some chemotherapy protocols may require hospitalization, especially if the side effects of the treatment are severe or if the dog needs supportive care.

Can I be present during my dog’s chemotherapy treatments?

In most cases, owners are not allowed to be present during their dog’s chemotherapy treatments. This is because chemotherapy drugs can be hazardous to humans if they come into contact with them. However, you can usually stay with your dog during the pre- and post-treatment periods to provide comfort and support.

How much does chemotherapy for dogs cost?

The cost of chemotherapy for dogs varies depending on various factors, such as the type and stage of cancer, the chemotherapy protocol used, and the location of the treatment. Generally, chemotherapy for dogs can cost several thousand dollars or more, depending on the duration of treatment and the required supportive care.

What are the pros and cons of chemotherapy for dogs?


  • Chemotherapy can help slow down the progression of cancer in dogs.
  • In some cases, chemotherapy can help put cancer into remission or even cure it.
  • Chemotherapy can improve a dog’s quality of life by reducing pain and discomfort associated with cancer.
  • Many dogs tolerate chemotherapy well and experience few side effects.


  • Chemotherapy can have side effects, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and hair loss.
  • Chemotherapy can weaken a dog’s immune system, making them more susceptible to infections.
  • Chemotherapy can be expensive, and some owners may not be able to afford the cost of treatment.
  • Chemotherapy is not a cure for all types of cancer, and some cancers may be resistant to treatment.

Can my dog lick me while on chemotherapy?

It is generally safe for dogs on chemotherapy to lick their owners. Chemotherapy drugs are primarily excreted through the urine and feces and do not pose a significant risk to humans through saliva. However, it’s still important to practice good hygiene and wash your hands thoroughly after handling your dog or their waste.

What is the success rate of chemotherapy for dogs?

The success rate of chemotherapy for dogs depends on various factors, such as the type and stage of cancer, the dog’s overall health, and their response to treatment. In some cases, chemotherapy can help put cancer into remission or even cure it. However, the effectiveness of chemotherapy varies widely, and not all dogs will respond to treatment.

Is chemotherapy for dogs with cancer worth it?

Whether chemotherapy is worth it for a dog with cancer depends on various factors, such as the type and stage of cancer, the dog’s overall health, and their response to treatment. In some cases, chemotherapy can help improve a dog’s quality of life and extend their lifespan. However, it’s important to consider the potential risks and benefits of treatment and weigh them against your dog’s individual needs.

Why is my dog panting after chemotherapy?

Panting is a common side effect of chemotherapy in dogs. Chemotherapy drugs can cause nausea, which can lead to panting and restlessness. Additionally, some chemotherapy drugs can cause inflammation in the lungs, which can also cause panting. If you’re concerned about your dog’s panting after chemotherapy, be sure to consult with your vet.

Should I give my dog chemotherapy for lymphoma?

Whether or not to give a dog chemotherapy for lymphoma depends on various factors, such as the dog’s overall health, the type and stage of lymphoma, and the dog’s response to treatment. In some cases, chemotherapy can help put lymphoma into remission and improve a dog’s quality of life. However, it’s important to consider the potential risks and benefits of treatment and weigh them against your dog’s individual needs.

What precautions should I take when my dog is on chemotherapy?

When your dog is on chemotherapy, it’s important to take certain precautions to minimize their risk of infection and protect yourself and other humans in the household. Some precautions you can take include:

  • Wearing gloves when handling your dog’s waste or cleaning up after them.
  • Washing your hands thoroughly after handling your dog or their waste.
  • Avoiding contact with your dog’s urine or feces for at least 48 hours after chemotherapy treatment.
  • Limiting your dog’s exposure to other animals and avoiding crowded areas, such as dog parks.
  • Keeping your dog’s environment clean and sanitary.
What Side Effects Do Pets Feel with Chemotherapy: VLOG 93

Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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