Are pets a concern during cancer treatment?

Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN, AOCN
Last Modified: July 28, 2002


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I was just diagnosed with colon cancer and I am about to begin chemotherapy. Will my "house pets" (cat) cause any problems during chemotherapy?  


Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN, AOCN, OncoLink's Medical Correspondent, responds:

The reason that pets may be a concern to patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments is because of infection risk. Chemotherapy can lower a patient's white blood cell counts, which are the cells responsible for fighting infections. Different types of chemotherapies do this to different degrees, so check with your doctor about your particular regimen.

The risk of infection with pets is in handling feces. In order to decrease this risk, the patient should not be the one to change or clean out the litter box. This job can be done by someone else in the house, or by one of those friends or family members who say, "What can I do to help?"

I think that a pet is an important part of the pet owner's life. They seem to sense their owner's moods, and give affection and support when it is most needed. I think you will find your pet to be an important part of your recovery.