Dr. Kim Freeman, DACVIM Oncology
“Just because you have the recipe for your grandma’s lasagna, doesn’t mean that you can make your grandma’s lasagna””
We all want to do the best to take care of our pets, right? And if you chose to do chemotherapy for your dog or cat, you would want to make sure that your doctor is doing everything she can to protect your pet from side effects of treatment. As part of our training to be specialists in oncology, we have gone through years of training to do these treatments the best way possible.
Risks of Administering Chemotherapy
Your doctor has probably explained that chemotherapy may cause stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea, or low white blood cell counts. What you probably don’t know–and is not typically discussed– are the risks during administration of chemotherapy to both your pet and the staff administering the treatment.
That’s right. Injectable chemotherapy drugs can vaporize into the air or if they leak out of bottles or syringes, they can get on your pet’s or the staff’s skin. Oral tablets or capsules can have drug powder on their surfaces, which can get on our staff’s skin or float into the air. These tiny exposures to these drugs can cause problems. It seems like it should be a simple task of giving an injection and sending you on your way. But, handling of chemotherapy drugs requires special precautions so that the environment is safe for everyone. Both short-term and chronic exposure to these drugs can cause health problems to your healthcare team.
1. Train the Staff
At our practice, we strongly value the safety and health of our staff. We have many safety measures in place when we give chemotherapy. These steps provide a safe environment for your pet and our staff.
First, our staff is highly trained in handling and administering chemotherapy drugs. They treat a high volume of patients making them very experienced in catheter placement and drug administration.
2. Use a Hood
In our treatment room, we have a biologic safety cabinet, also known as the “chemo hood”. This is where we prepare all of the chemotherapy medications. This hood has special ventilation so that anything spilled in the hood is pulled out of the building and prevents the staff and your pet from inhaling toxic drugs. In addition, the hood pulls air from our treatment room through its vents and out of the building so that our room air is well filtered and decreases the risk for inadvertent drug exposure to your pet and our staff.
3. Use a “Closed Delivery System”
Next, we use a very special chemotherapy delivery system called Phaseal. This system is how we pull up drugs into syringes and administer them to your pet. It is called a “closed delivery system” and guarantees that no drug leaks out of the syringe into the air or on the staff or pet’s skin during treatment.
4. Dress for the Job
We all wear special gloves, goggles, masks, and gowns while we administer chemotherapy to protect ourselves from exposure. In addition, we are trained to know what to do in the event that there is a leakage or drug exposure to minimize everyone’s risk for contamination.
We strive to provide the highest level of safety and have protocols and equipment that parallel the human oncology field. Although these measures add some cost to the treatment, we know that we are providing the highest level of care. It is our priority to protect our staff and your pets to keep everyone safe and healthy.