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Common Chemotherapy Side Effects
Vomiting: Withhold food and water for 12 hours,
and then offer small amounts of water. If your pet does not vomit
after drinking the water, offer small amounts of bland foods such
as boiled chicken or boiled hamburger with boiled white rice. If
still no vomiting, gradually reintroduce the pet’s normal
diet in about three days. Call your veterinary hospital or an emergency
veterinary service if the vomiting is severe or is accompanied by
a fever greater than 103°F or persists longer than 24 hours.
Diarrhea: Offer your pet bland, easily digestible
foods such as cottage cheese, boiled chicken or hamburger and white
rice. Gradually reintroduce your pet’s normal diet. Pepto-Bismol
can be given at one tablespoon per 15 pounds of body weight (dog)
three times a day (every 8 hours) or ½ a tablet per every
7 pounds of body weight two times a day (every 12 hours). Call your
veterinary hospital or an emergency veterinary service if the diarrhea
persists for more than 48 hours or if it is associated with a fever
greater than 103°F.
Dehydration: Dehydration can develop following vomiting, diarrhea,
excessive urination or fever and may result in a prolonged recovery.
Your pet’s gums should be moist and the skin should feel soft
and compliant. If your pet is not vomiting, fresh water should always
be available. Call your veterinary hospital or an emergency veterinary
service if gums are persistently dry or if the skin does not feel
normally supple. Fluid administration may be necessary to speed
Low White Blood Cell Count: The white blood cell
count is expected to drop below normal after treatment, but will
return to normal by the next treatment. This should not cause a
problem unless the white blood cell count drops too low. When the
white blood cell count drops too low, the body has difficulty fighting
off infections. Infections may occur between 7-21 days after the
drug is given. If this happens, symptoms may include a fever (temperature
>103°F), lethargy (tiredness), vomiting, diarrhea, and a
poor appetite. Some oncologists obtain a blood sample to be evaluated
at the 7 day time point following treatment. If the blood count
is low they may dispense antibiotics to prevent an infection.
If your pet shows any of the symptoms mentioned above, take your
pet's temperature if you can (normal temperature is 100-102.5°F).
If the temperature is greater than 103°F or if you cannot take
the temperature, you should call your veterinary hospital or an
emergency veterinary service. Your pet may need to be admitted to
Bladder Irritation: Some anticancer drugs can cause
irritation to the bladder called cystitis. This irritation can cause
the urine to be bloody which is called hemorrhagic cystitis. Your
pet may appear uncomfortable when passing urine, and strain frequently
to pass only a small amount. Call your veterinary hospital or an
emergency veterinary service if your pet has bloody urine or is
straining to urinate. The doctor will most likely have you bring
your pet in for a urine sample to determine the cause (drug reaction
or bladder infection). If it is determined that the drug is the
cause of the bloody urine, that drug will be stopped and another
drug may be substituted. Your pet will be treated for the cystitis
with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.