Is Radiation Therapy Safe for My Pet?

What Is Radiation Therapy?

Cancer can affect humans as well as animals, and many different treatment options are available. Radiation therapy is a type of treatment that uses targeted beams of energy to deliver a high dose of radiation to a cancerous tumor while minimizing the radiation received by the healthy, normal tissue surrounding it. Radiation therapy can be used for many different types of tumors throughout an animal’s body—anywhere from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail.


When Is it Appropriate to Consider Radiation Therapy?

The choice of whether or not to perform radiation therapy depends on both the location of the tumor and its level of aggressiveness. The tumor doesn’t have to be visible on the outside of your pet’s body—it can be inside as well. When treating an interior tumor, veterinarians use advanced imaging techniques like CT or MRI in order to effectively target the beams of radiation on the tumor. Radiation therapy is generally most effective when a tumor is localized, and the treatment is usually not recommended if the cancer is widespread or in a very advanced form.


Is Radiation Therapy Safe?

Radiation Therapy is very safe and effective when used correctly. By focusing intense beams of energy on the tumor, vets can attack and shrink the cancer without significantly impacting the tissue surrounding it. While the treatment itself is not painful or invasive, pets do need to lie perfectly still, which means sometimes an anesthetic will be necessary to keep the animal calm, comfortable, and stationary.


What Are the Side Effects of Radiation Therapy?

Any exposure to radiation can potentially produce negative side effects, but these symptoms are temporary and manageable, and the short-term discomfort is usually outweighed by the long-term gains from the therapy. Different treatment regimens can produce different effects depending on the length and frequency of exposure. In rare, severe cases, vets can prescribe medication to treat discomfort resulting from side effects of the treatment.


How Long Does Radiation Therapy Last?

The length of treatment varies greatly depending on the severity of your pet’s issues. Sometimes radiation therapy requires daily treatments of radiation for a month, and sometimes the treatment lasts only a few days. At HOPE, we generally perform this procedure on an outpatient basis with individual sessions lasting only a couple of hours. This means pet owners can drop their pet off for treatment and pick them up at the end of the day, or stay onsite while the animal is being treated.