Pets and Cancer Treatment: What to Know

Medically Reviewed

Q. I’m undergoing cancer treatment and need to take special precautions to prevent infection. Do I have to give up my dog?

A. If you have a weakened immune system for any reason, such as a result of chemotherapy, you’re more susceptible to infections, and there’s a possibility that your pet could transmit an infectious disease to you.

Your oncologist should be able to tell you about your risk factors. In most cases, with a little care, you should be able to keep your dog.

If you do, have a veterinarian evaluate your dog’s general health. Assuming your dog is healthy, and his vaccinations are up to date, you need to be extra cautious. Thoroughly wash your hands after handling your pet, and don’t let your dog lick any open cuts or your mouth. During your treatments, avoid prolonged contact with your dog, such as snuggling or letting him sleep in your bed.

Feed your dog only commercial pet food (no table scraps), keep his nails clipped short so he can’t scratch you, and have him wear a flea collar.

If possible, don’t board him in a kennel where he’ll come into contact with other animals and risk picking up disease vectors.

Should your dog develop diarrhea, vomiting, or respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing), bring him to the vet to determine if he poses any transmission risk to you.

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