The following information covers some of the more common drugs used at home to treat cancer. Which drugs are used will depend both on which disease your pet has and what other therapies are being pursued. If you have any questions about the medications here, please talk to your doctor or a staff member.
One of the more common at home medications used to treat various cancers is steroids. Steroids are a good therapy for immune-based cancers and, for some, can even cause them to go into remission. The downside to steroids is that with their continued use, the cancer cells become resistant to its lethal effects much in the same way some bacteria are resistant to certain antibiotics. This developed resistance often extends to resistance against most of the other drugs used in cancer therapy. The development of resistance can begin as early as 2-3 weeks after starting the steroid therapy. Thus while steroids are very helpful in making a patient feel better initially, they do not, in the long run, greatly increase their life expectancy.
There are several different types of steroids and formulations. While oral steroids (tablets and liquids) are most common, steroids also come in transdermal (absorbed through the skin) and injectable forms. What formulation is used will depend on the needs of you and your pet. Please be sure to discuss any concerns you have with your doctor.
If it is decided to start your pet on steroids, there is some important information you should know about side effects and drug interactions. Please be sure to tell your doctor about all medications and supplements your pet is currently taking, or has taken, in the past week. Depending on the medication, starting steroids may need to be delayed to allow a ‘wash out’ period so that negative drug interactions can be avoided. Your pet will also need to have blood work checked periodically to monitor for any negative effects on the liver. Below is a list of the more common side effects seen at home with steroid use.
Common side effects
- Increased thirst and urination
- Increased hunger
- Increased energy
- Weight gain (due to eating more food)
- Panting and/or increased respiratory rate
These side effects are common when initially starting steroids and should decrease or stop as the dose is reduced. If the side effects are severe, please talk with your doctor about adjusting the dose.