In our cancer patients, an emergency may be related to particular cancer, or treatment-related, or a combination of both cancer and the treatment. Certain cancers can cause emergent problems requiring immediate attention such as bleeding from the tumor (hemangiosarcoma), difficulty breathing (lung cancers), low blood glucose and seizures or collapse (insulinoma), high calcium leading to secondary kidney failure (some lymphomas), high histamine levels leading to vomiting/dehydration (mast cell cancer), and seizures (brain tumors). In cases of secondary complications directly associated from cancer, the goal of therapy is to provide supportive care to stabilize the patient until further interventional therapy can be done, if possible. We are available to answer your questions about your pet’s cancer and the potential risks associated with the tumor.
In addition to tumor-related emergencies, a small percentage of our cancer patients may have significant adverse effects from treatment. Chemotherapy is generally well tolerated, but approximately 10% of patients may experience protracted vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia or low cell counts necessitating emergency evaluation. Dehydration can rapidly occur in small dogs and cats, and hospitalization for supportive care is indicated. Low cell counts, specifically the neutrophil count (one of the white blood cell counts) can predispose the patient to infection and if left untreated, sepsis (fever and low neutrophil count) can rapidly develop and can be life-threatening. Low platelet counts secondary to certain chemotherapy drugs can lead to bruising and loss of blood from the GI tract, which can then result in anemia. Interventional supportive care is advised for any patient that develops significant adverse effects from treatment. Most patients that receive radiation therapy do not develop serious side effects requiring emergency evaluation, but any concerns about radiation side effects will be discussed with you during the course of your pet’s treatment. Immunotherapy is also generally without serious risk. Complications associated with this type of treatment are not expected.
It may difficult for you to determine at home if your pet is having symptoms from cancer or treatment that require emergency evaluation. If there is any question about the status of your pet, we recommend that you call to discuss your pet’s symptoms with a nurse or doctor. During our office hours, our trained staff will provide you the direction that you need to make a decision about emergency evaluation. We will work closely with your veterinarian and local emergency doctors to ensure that your pet receives the most appropriate care needed. After our normal business hours, contact your veterinarian if available, the closest emergency hospital, or the Emergency Pet Hospital of Collier County at (239) 263-8010.