Exposure of Other Pets to Chemotherapy

Last Modified: October 29, 2006

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

My 5-year-old Border Collie/Lab mix Annie was recently diagnosed with stage III lymphoma. We started chemotherapy treatments with Asparaginase (Elspar), Prednisone, and Vincristine, followed by 4 days of Cytoxan and 6 daily doses of Prednisone, which will eventually scale back to once every other day. So far Annie seems to feel fine, is full of energy, eating well, and the lymph nodes have almost disappeared. My question is about another dog we have in the house, and how much exposure she should have to Annie. I have received varying responses to my question, from keeping the dogs completely separate, to supervised time together, to allowing them free access to each other.

Are Annie's urine and feces toxic to the other dog? Should the dogs drink from the same water bowl? Should they be allowed to play together, including tug-of-war and other games, which include mouthing each other, or chewing on each other's toys? They love each other and experience separation anxiety when apart, but I do not want to put my other dog in harm's way by allowing her to be exposed to toxic chemicals. Thank you.

Answer

Lili Duda, VMD, Section Editor of the OncoLink Veterinary Oncology Menu, responds:

This is an excellent question!

Most chemotherapy drugs are excreted in the urine and/or feces (and may also be present in vomitus) for about 2 to 3 days after the patient receives them. Basic hygiene precautions should be followed, including walking the pet away from public areas if possible, and walking frequently to minimize the risk of soiling in the house. If waste products need to be cleaned up, use rubber gloves and paper towels, and flush the material down a toilet, trying to minimize splashing when placing the material in the toilet bowl. If this is not possible, seal contaminated materials in a plastic bag before placing in the trash. Wash any and all possibly contaminated surfaces, including hands, with soap and water.

In general, pets receiving chemotherapy do not need to be isolated from other pets or people, as long as basic hygiene principles are practiced. In fact, normal interaction is to be encouraged as much as possible so as to maintain a good quality of life while undergoing cancer care. However, if a patient is immunocompromised (in other words, has a weakened immune system due to either the cancer or the chemotherapy drugs, as measured by blood cell counts), contact with other ill animals, and group animal settings such as dog parks, should be avoided. Also keep in mind that animals that are sick and not feeling well might be uncharacteristically grouchy or cranky, so caution and common sense should be used, especially if younger children are in the household.


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