Chemotherapy is used to help slow the growth of tumors, improve life quality and decrease the spread of a tumor in your dog. Chemotherapy drugs are meant to kill cancer cells and, in the process, they sometimes damage a cell and the DNA. Chemotherapy cannot differentiate between malignant and normal cancer cells. As a result, there are side effects of these life-saving drugs, including nerve damage in your dog.
Neuropathy is damage to the peripheral nerve in both humans and dogs. Chemotherapy is toxic to both the healthy as well as the cancerous cells. Many of these drugs strip the outer coating of various nerves in the body. The results of the nerve damage from some of these drugs are numbness, weakness, pain, tingling and an impaired sense of touch. Radiation treatment can also lead to neuropathy as well as conditions such as diabetes, kidney problems and malnutrition.
With the use of several common chemotherapy drugs such as cisplatin and carboplatin, there are some known side effects. Both of these drugs have similar side effects, including damage to the nerves (lower motor neuron weakness) in the rear legs of the dogs. Your dog may develop nausea about six hours after treatment with Cisplatin and continue for an additional six hours. There may also be issues with kidney damage and bone marrow suppression.
Vincristine is used to treat malignant cancers of the lymphoid and blood systems, and treats immune-mediated platelet disorders. Vincristine does have several side effects, including a damaging effect on the nervous system, which results in weakness, collapse and seizures. Vincristine should only be administered intravenously as it may cause significant inflammation, skin necrosis and sloughing. This drug may also cause hair loss, vomiting, nausea or diarrhea. Avoid using this drug on your dog if he is suffering from a liver disease or is sensitive to its adverse effects. Be cautious of other drug interactions when on this medication.
L-asparaginase has an adverse side effect on liver disease, which can generally cause neurological nerve damage as well. There are a number of neurotrophins, which can be used as a neuropathy protectant against the side effects of cisplatin, L-asparaginase and other nerve-damaging chemotherapy agents. If your dog will be undergoing chemotherapy treatment, discuss with your veterinary oncologists the medications available, the side effects and if the use of a neurotrophin can help to ward off any nerve damage side effects. Some neurotrophins available are amifostine, glutathione and prosaptides. Many neurotrophins are still in the testing stages, but your oncologists will be able to advise you as to the best medical therapy that is best for your dog.