Difference between chemotherapy and radiotherapy in treatments for dogs with cancer

Healthy dog

The life expectancy of pets has increased considerably compared to decades ago, animals reach increasingly advanced ages, and therefore, cases of dogs with cancer are quite common. The exact causes of canine tumors are still unknown, but several factors play an essential role.

These factors can be hereditary, environmental, and nutritional. The chemotherapy and radiation therapies are most commonly used to treat cancer in dogs.

It is vital to have a diagnosis as early as possible to act quickly and efficiently. That is why periodic checks in the veterinarian are so necessary, especially when the animal reaches a certain age.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs as a cancer treatment. These treatments do not promise to eradicate 100% cancer. However, they considerably increase the quality of life of the animal.

Chemotherapy in dogs can be used as a single treatment or in combination with other treatments such as surgery or radiotherapy. Chemotherapy will be used in the following situations:

  • Tumors are impossible to operate due to their size or location, for example, if they are near essential blood vessels.
  • Tumors with a risk of metastasis that can spread throughout the body.
  • Before surgery of a tumor to reduce its size and be able to remove it by surgical techniques.
  • After the removal of a tumor. The tumor has already been removed, and with this chemotherapy, we ensure that there are no cancer cells in the area that reproduce cancer again.

A veterinarian should study the type of chemotherapy and the way of administering it, and we should probably go to the clinic every so often.

All chemotherapeutic treatments work by attacking rapidly dividing cells as carcinogens do. That is why not only cancer cells are affected, but also the other cells that are in the division throughout the body.

The application of chemotherapy in animals is usually less harmful and with fewer side effects than for people since the treatment is less aggressive when using lower doses.

Side effects occur infrequently and, if they appear, are usually mild and transient.

Radiation therapy in dogs with cancer

The use of radiotherapy in animals is much older than we think, and it is a technique that continues to progress since the nineteenth century. It consists of radiation-based cancer treatment.

The ionizing radiation interacts with the genetic material and can damage cells, especially those that are increasing. This means that, as in chemotherapy, it can affect both cancer and healthy cells.

The goal of radiation therapy treatment is to destroy the highest number of tumor cells while minimizing the impact on healthy tissues.

The radiation can be administered by an external source of pollution or by radioactive isotopes. Due to the use of radiotherapy equipment, it is also likely that this treatment is only available in specialized clinics.

Radiation therapy in dogs is indicated in all those tumors in which it is not possible to operate or the residual ones after an illness. Some examples are:

  • Oral tumors.
  • Tumors of the nasal cavity.
  • Tumors located in the central nervous system, such as brain tumors.
  • Mastocytomas, which is the malignant tumor of skin and subcutaneous tissue most frequently diagnosed in dogs.

If we are going to start applying chemotherapy or radiotherapy to our dog, it is essential that we strictly follow the guidelines indicated by the veterinarian to obtain the best possible results and see improvement in the quality of life of the pet.

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