Dr. Robert Yoo Cancer Treatment and Your Pets

Posted 5 years ago

Cancer Treatment and Your Pets

Dealing with a cancer treatment and your pets can be challenging. Pets play a caring role during challenging times, especially when one is diagnosed with cancer, and chemotherapy or radiation is planned.

Pet Safety During Cancer Care

Despite all the great benefit, some pets might increase your risk of transmitting infections, which can be concerning for patient who receives chemotherapy that can compromise the immune system or low white blood cell counts. Not all pets pose the same transmission risks and type of pathogens.  It is essential to know what you may be susceptible to during therapy.

Pets and Cancer Care with Dr. Robert Yoo of Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers

Protecting Pet-Borne Infection During Weakened Immune System

Many different types of diseases can spread through bites, scratches, and contact with the saliva or feces from pets and other animals. Dogs can inadvertently spread infection by biting, scratching or coming into contact with their feces. Although serious infections are rare in healthy individuals, patients with a compromised immune system can be vulnerable. In regard to cats, the most severe cat-related infection is toxoplasmosis. Similar to the infections from dog bites, symptoms are minimally manifested in healthy individuals, yet it can be severe in those with compromised immune systems, leading to advanced illness such as seizure and confusion.

It is strongly recommended that reptiles are avoided during chemotherapy as some species are known to harbor bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter, all of which can easily be transmitted by touch. Although rare, aquarium fish can sometimes carry mycobacterium marinum via fish skin.

Additional types of pets that need to be avoided due to salmonella transfusion risk includes chickens and pocket pets such as hamsters, guinea pigs, and ferrets.

Cancer Treatment and Your Pets with Dr. Robert Yoo of Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers

Tips to Maintain Safety During Cancer Treatment

Make sure you consult with your oncologist about your pet before you begin treatment. In the majority of circumstances, it is considered acceptable for patients to change litter box or clean up after their dogs, but extra precaution needs to be raised to avoid being exposed to any harmful eggs/parasites or bacteria in the feces. Be advised to practice wearing protective gloves and a mask.  Be sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water afterward.

It is recommended to check with your veterinarian to have your pet properly vaccinated and treated to prevent heartworms. Ask your vet whether any vaccines are live vaccines which need to be addressed during the immunocompromised state. Also, have your cats tested for feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency (FIV) viruses. Trimming your pet’s hair is recommended for flea and tick prevention.

Beneficial Effects of Pet During Cancer Treatment

Research has shown therapy dogs are a great source of psychological comfort and companionship during cancer treatment leading to a better outcome. According to UC Davis clinical researchers, dogs are even believed to have the potential to add an important diagnostic element to patient care by their abilities to identify the scent of cancer in breath and bodily fluids.

Here at Ironwood Cancer and Research Centers, we value elements of love and support during your cancer treatment. We cannot imagine you going through a difficult time without your companion. Please be assured of asking your oncology care team for more information and further assistance.  To learn more about Cancer Treatment and your pets, please ask your medical provider.