Can I Keep My Pet During Chemotherapy?

Can I Keep My Pet During Chemotherapy and Other Cancer Treatments?

2015_8972 Feb. 04The information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
As you’re getting ready for chemotherapy, radiation, or other cancer treatment, there might be concerns about whether it’s safe to keep your pet. It’s important to know that not all pets pose the same risks, and not all cancer treatments do, either.

Many types of cancer treatment affect the immune system, some more than others. For example, a bone marrow or stem cell transplant can have a big effect on your risk of infection, but cancer surgery by itself usually doesn’t. Having your spleen removed, however, can result in a lifelong risk for certain unusual infections. Chemotherapy usually involves a higher risk, but this ends after chemo is completed. Ask your doctor about your plan for treatment, and about its risks, before starting.

If you have pets, tell your cancer care team about your pets and your routines for caring for them. You can find out what might not be safe during your or your child’s cancer treatment. It’s also a good idea to visit your pet’s veterinarian to find out what kinds of illness might be passed from your pet during times when your immune system is weak.

One other important consideration is making sure you have someone who can care for your pets and their living quarters if you get too ill or if you have to be in the hospital. Keep written instructions on feeding, cleaning, medicines, toileting, and veterinary contacts for your pets, so that your substitute caregiver can have it when needed.

Protecting your health during cancer treatment

While you’re getting cancer treatment or waiting for your immune system to recover, you can take precautions to reduce your risk of infection.

Tips for pet owners

  • Avoid very close contact, such as kissing, snuggling, or sleeping in the same bed.
  • Wear waterproof disposable gloves to clean the litter box or to pick up dog droppings.
  • Don’t handle the outside of your gloves after use. Remove gloves by pulling down from the inside surface at the top, then discard them.
  • Wash your hands after petting, caring for, touching, feeding, or cleaning up after pets (even if you wore gloves).
  • Wash your hands before taking medicines and handling food, dishes, or other things in the kitchen.
  • If your pet starts to look sick, get it to the veterinarian right away.
  • Ask others to clean fish tanks and cages of birds or other pets.
  • Avoid contact with animals you don’t know, especially strays or those that look sick.
  • Avoid contact with reptiles, their cages or terraria, and objects from their cages.
  • Wear gloves when gardening to avoid contact with animal droppings

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