At Cave Vet Specialists in Somerset, we have a large, purpose-built, climate-controlled chemotherapy suite. The cytotoxic safety cabinet, closed-system administration equipment, personal protective equipment and a fully trained team allow us to deliver chemotherapy safely and efficiently. We run an outpatient chemo clinic daily, offering a full range of baseline and rescue protocols.
Here at Cave Vets, we have a dedicated team of clinicians, interns and nurses who are committed to ensuring your beloved pet have the best experience possible whilst going through their treatment.
We have a fully equipped chemotherapy suite which is located away from the busy centre of the practice to ensure a calm and stress-free experience, as we are well aware that some pets are not such big fans of us as others.
We have a bottomless treat jar and a soft mattress to help keep your pet at ease.
The team consists of a limited number of well-trained chemo nurses so we will be able to get to know each other enabling us to build a rapport with one another and we are always available for any question however big or small. Being pet owners ourselves, we understand how precious they are and we are committed to doing our best for all the pets we treat.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a drug modality used to treat different types of cancer. Depending on the type of cancer, there are various kinds which work in different ways.
It can be used in conjunction with surgery or on its own, which will depend on the type, location and stage of the cancer.
The aim of chemotherapy is to prolong the life of your pet whilst maintaining or improving their quality of life.
How is chemotherapy given?
The type of cancer will determine the drugs that would be appropriate. Different options are available for some cancers, and this will be discussed with yourselves prior to making an individualised treatment plan.
Drugs might be given:
Into the vein (intra-venous)
Under the skin (sub-cutaneous)
Into the muscle (intra-muscular)
Some oral chemotherapy can be given at home, where possible and safe for all involved.
How does chemotherapy work?
A general definition of cancer is a rapid and uncontrolled growth of cells.
Chemotherapy drugs interfere with the cancer cells ability to grow and multiply. Unfortunately, the drugs can also damage healthy dividing cells as they cannot usually distinguish between the cancer cell and normal healthy cells.
The types of cells that are more likely to be affected are those in the gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow. However, healthy cells are better at repairing themselves.
What side effects will my pet have?
We will always aim to give your pet the most appropriate drug for their type of cancer with the least side effects.
Luckily, side effects are not as often seen in dogs and cats as in humans.
Possible side effects include:
Diarrhoea as the cells in the gastrointestinal tract can be affected by the chemotherapy drug. If your pet has diarrhoea for longer than 24-36 hours or there is any blood in the faeces, then you should contact us or your primary care vet for advice and treatment.
Vomiting We routinely give an anti-sickness injection with most chemotherapy drugs. Oral anti-sickness medication is also sent home with your pet to be used if required. This can be given at the first signs of nausea or inappetence. If your pet is vomiting more than 4-6 times a day please contact us or your primary care vet for advice and treatment
Fever Common signs of a fever are lethargy, depression, reduced appetite or refusing to eat at all, lying on a cool floor.
Cystitis If you see any Blood in your pet’s urine and /or they are straining or showing signs of discomfort when urinating, please contact us or your primary care vets gets straight away. This side effect is more common with certain drugs.
Hair loss This is most common in dog breeds who have continually growing hair coats, ie Poodles, Old English Sheepdogs and some Terriers, although it can affect any breed.
Cats may lose their whiskers.
You may find that any clipped patches take longer to grow back and sometimes the coat may have a different colour and texture than before
In some cases, we prescribe corticosteroids, which can increase your pet's thirst and appetite so please ensure they always have access to fresh water and toilet facilities. You may find they need to go out in the night. These drugs can also cause some loss of muscle, especially visible over your pet's back and head.
Although it is hard, please try not to increase their food intake as it will only cause weight gain.
How long will my pet need chemotherapy?
The type of cancer, the chosen chemotherapy protocol and the response to chemotherapy will mainly decide on the treatment length.
Different drugs have different treatment schedules, some are on a cycle with breaks to allow your pet's body to regenerate healthy cells whereas others (often called metronomic chemotherapy) may be a daily tablet at home.
Blood tests are taken routinely throughout your pet’s treatment to ensure they are coping well and it is safe to continue.
Do I need to be careful of anything whilst my pet is on chemotherapy?
As with all medications, they should be kept in a child-proof container and out of reach of children and animals. Gloves must always be worn when handling any chemotherapy drugs and tablets must never be split.
Chemotherapy is excreted via urine and faeces, some drugs take longer to be excreted than others. We advise that whilst your pet is undergoing chemotherapy you always wear gloves when handling any urine, faeces or bodily fluids and always thoroughly wash your hands after clearing up.
If your pet has an accident in the house, cat litter works well to absorb the fluid and aid cleaning.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, we would advise not to handle any of your pets urine, faeces or bodily fluids if at all possible.
Please ensure that you monitor your pet closely throughout their treatment and contact us or your primary care vets if you have any concerns.
We are available 24/7 at Cave Vet Specialist and are here for you and your pet.