Skip to Main Content

Ask About Financing

Side Effects of Radiation Therapy for Dogs

If your dog is diagnosed with cancer, your vet may recommend radiation to destroy the cancer cells. Here, our emergency and specialty vets in Nashua share the purpose and benefits of radiation therapy for dogs, as well as the known side effects that you should prepare for.

What is radiation therapy?

Radiation therapy (also known as radiotherapy and radiation) is a safe and efficient treatment for many types of cancer and other disorders that commonly affect dogs. The purpose of radiation therapy is to reduce or kill malignant tumors. Cancer cells develop and divide considerably quicker than most healthy cells. Radiation therapy is directed at the tumor to damage the DNA within the cancer cells, interfering with cell reproduction and, in many circumstances, destroying the cells.

Benefits of Radiation Therapy For Dogs

This veterinary cancer treatment uses ionizing radiation to harm and destroy cancer cells. It can help cure or reduce the growth of solid cancer tumors and, in certain circumstances, relieve discomfort and enhance function. Veterinary radiation therapy can also help lower the risk of cancer recurrence after surgery or chemotherapy.

Recent advances in radiation therapy technology allow our vets to deliver much more targeted radiation to the tumor with less damage to the surrounding tissue structure.

When will radiation therapy be recommended?

When used alone or in conjunction with other treatment options, such as surgery or chemotherapy, radiation therapy can be an effective treatment for curing or slowing the progression of cancer. It is also an effective palliative care technique, helping to improve the quality of life for pets suffering from advanced cancer.

Treatment For Cancer

Curative radiation therapy treatments are typically given in small doses daily for three to four weeks. Cancers that are often treated with radiation alone include:

  • Brain tumors
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Nasal tumors
  • Some forms of lymphoma
  • Tumors found on the pet's extremities
  • Bone tumors
  • Mast cell tumors
  • Bladder tumors

Radiation treatment can also kill cancer cells left behind following surgery and help reduce the size of large tumors, making surgery a more viable option.

However, it should be noted that radiation therapy is not a cure-all for all tumors. Your veterinarian will propose the finest mix of medicines to treat your pet's type of cancer.

Palliative Radiation Therapy

Veterinary radiation therapy may relieve pain and other symptoms, helping improve the pet's quality of life. Palliative radiation therapy is commonly used when the pet has advanced cancer, metastasis, or other conditions that limit life expectancy.

Palliative radiation therapy may consist of one treatment per week or numerous treatments spread out over a few days. Palliative radiation therapy frequently relieves pain and may even reduce tumors slightly, with few adverse effects.

Radiation Therapy For Dogs: Side Effects

Pets receiving palliative radiation therapy frequently have little or no negative effects from the treatment. Having said that, many pets who receive daily treatments experience some discomfort. Your veterinarian can give you more information about the side effects your pet is likely to encounter before the treatment begins.

When radiation therapy is being used with curative intent, pets may experience acute effects during or shortly after treatment.

The side effects of your pet's radiation therapy will be related to the specific area being treated. If your pet is being treated for cancer near the surface of its skin, it may develop skin irritation. Conversely, a pet being treated for a tumor located in its mouth may experience soreness when swallowing.

Although the side effects vary greatly based on where the tumor is located, some of the most common side effects of curative radiation therapy treatments include:

  • Red, sunburn-like patches of skin
  • Bald patches
  • Skin coloration changes
  • Ulceration of the skin
  • Dry skin
  • Itchy patches
  • Blistering
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Eye irritation
  • Diarrhea

What is stereotactic radiation therapy for dogs?

Stereotactic radiation therapy for dogs is a specialized form of radiation treatment that delivers highly precise and targeted doses of radiation to specific areas of a dog's body. It uses advanced imaging techniques to create a three-dimensional map of the tumor or affected area. This allows veterinarians to accurately deliver radiation to the tumor while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissues.

Internal Medicine & Emergency Care at Animal Medical Center of New England

While we do not offer radiation therapy at our specialty and emergency animal hospital in Nashua, we are equipped to handle a range of complex internal conditions and serious medical emergencies.

Suppose a pet has symptoms or an illness that your family veterinarian cannot diagnose or treat. In that case, it can be referred to an internal medicine specialist for more advanced care.

We emphasize a comprehensive, team approach to our cases and work with your veterinarian and other specialists to ensure the best care for our patients.

Our veterinary team is also available for emergencies  7 days a week, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. We are specially trained in emergency medicine and triage and provide quality, compassionate care to pets.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to diagnose your pet's condition accurately.

Is your dog showing concerning signs such as fatigue, loss or appetite or diarrhea? If so, contact our Nashua emergency vets right away.

Welcoming Referrals and Emergency Walk-Ins

Animal Medical Center of New England welcomes emergency walk-ins and appointments when your pet needs us most. Our team of specialists is also accepting referrals from primary care veterinarians - fill out a referral form to get started.


Contact (603) 821-7222