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Side Effects of Radiation Therapy for Dogs

At Upland our vets offer veterinary radiation therapy as a treatment option for dogs with various forms of cancer. Today we discuss some of the benefits and side effects of this cancer treatment option. 

What is radiation therapy for dogs?

Radiation therapy (also known as radiotherapy and radiation) is a safe and efficient treatment for many types of cancer and other disorders that commonly affect dogs. The purpose of radiation therapy is to reduce or kill malignant tumors. Cancer cells develop and divide at a considerably quicker rate than most healthy cells. Radiation therapy is directed at the tumor with the goal of damaging the DNA within the cancer cells, interfering with cell reproduction and, in many circumstances, entirely destroying the cells.

What are the benefits of pet radiation therapy?

This veterinary cancer treatment uses ionizing radiation to harm and destroy cancer cells, which can help to cure or reduce the growth of solid cancer tumors and, in certain circumstances, relieve discomfort and enhance function. Veterinary radiation therapy can also help lower the risk of cancer recurrence after surgery or chemotherapy.

Recent advances in radiation therapy technology allow our vets to deliver much more targeted radiation to the tumor with less damage to the surrounding tissue structure.

When is radiation therapy used to treat pets?

When used alone or in conjunction with other treatment options such as surgery or chemotherapy, radiation therapy can be an effective treatment for curing or slowing the progression of cancer. It is also an effective palliative care technique, helping to improve the quality of life for pets suffering from advanced cancer.

Cancer Treatment

Curative radiation therapy treatments are typically given in small doses daily for 3-4 weeks. Cancers that are often treated with radiation alone include:

  • Brain tumors
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Nasal tumors
  • Some forms of lymphoma
  • Tumors found on the pet's extremities
  • Bone tumors
  • Mast cell tumors
  • Bladder tumors

Radiation treatment can also kill cancer cells left behind following surgery and help reduce the size of large tumors, making surgery a more viable option.

However, it should be noted that radiation therapy is not a cure-all for all tumors.Your veterinarian will propose the finest mix of medicines to treat your pet's individual type of cancer.

Palliative Radiation Therapy

Veterinary radiation therapy may be provided to relieve pain and other symptoms, helping improve the pet's quality of life. Palliative radiation therapy is commonly used when the pet has advanced cancer, metastasis, or other conditions that limit life expectancy.

Palliative radiation therapy may consist of one treatment per week or numerous treatments spread out over a few days. Palliative radiation therapy frequently relieves pain and may even reduce tumors slightly, with few adverse effects.

What are the side effects of veterinary radiation therapy?

Pets receiving palliative radiation therapy frequently have little or no negative effects from the treatment. Having said that, many pets who receive daily treatments experience some discomfort. Your veterinarian will be able to give you with more information about the side effects that your pet is likely to encounter before the treatment begins.

When radiation therapy is being used with curative intent pets may experience acute effects during or shortly after treatment.

The side effects of your pet's radiation therapy will be related to the specific area that is being treated. If your pet is being treated for cancer that is near the surface of its skin, your pet may develop skin irritation. Whereas a being treated for a tumor located in their mouth may experience soreness when swallowing.

Although the side effects vary greatly based on where the tumor is located, some of the most common side effects of curative radiation therapy treatments include:

  • Red, sunburn-like patches of skin
  • Bald patches
  • Skin coloration changes
  • Ulceration of the skin
  • Dry skin
  • Itchy patches
  • Blistering
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Eye irritation
  • Diarrhea

Your vet will be able to provide advice on how best to deal with your dog's radiation side effects.

What is stereotactic radiation therapy for dogs?

Stereotactic radiation therapy for dogs is a specialized form of radiation treatment that delivers highly precise and targeted doses of radiation to specific areas of a dog's body. It uses advanced imaging techniques to create a three-dimensional map of the tumor or affected area. This allows veterinarians to accurately deliver radiation to the tumor while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissues. 

    Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to diagnose your pet's condition accurately.

    Is your dog suffering from a medical emergency? If so, contact our Upland vets today.

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