How Much Is Chemo for Dogs & Other Dog Cancer FAQs

Four Minutes
Sep 15, 2023

Cancer is one of the most common dog diseases, with about 4 million1 dogs developing the disease each year. It’s a scary time for pet parents, and if your dog needs chemotherapy, you could be looking at paying between $150 and $600 per dose, according to the Veterinary Cancer Society.2 What’s more, your pup may need several rounds of treatment.

Your vet can help you determine if chemotherapy is right for your dog, but this guide can help you feel prepared if you’re looking at a possible cancer diagnosis.

What Is Chemotherapy for Dogs?

To put it in very simple terms, chemotherapy uses chemicals to attack cells — both cancerous and healthy — to stop the cancer from splitting and spreading.3 It’s used to fight some of the most common cancers in dogs.

How Much Is Chemo for Dogs Altogether?

It’s hard to determine the total cost of dog chemotherapy because your dog may need multiple rounds of treatment. At $150–$600 per dose, you could be billed tens of thousands of dollars, as some dogs have to stay on chemo for months or even years.3 Your cost also depends on which drugs are used and what method is utilized to treat your dog.

Some other fees you might see will depend on the provider and can include oncologists, veterinary hospitals, or visits to other clinics. In each case, the fees may vary quite a bit.

You can call the office you’re taking your dog to and ask them directly about the specific costs of dog chemotherapy and other fees involved with your visit and your dog’s ongoing cancer treatment.

Pet Insurance May Help With Veterinary Costs

Find Out More

What Are the Side Effects of Chemo in Dogs?

Most side effects of chemotherapy affect the gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow.1 Common side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakened immune system (due to decreased white blood cells)

A silver lining is that the majority of dogs undergoing chemotherapy have minimal to no side effects.4

When Do Vets Use Chemotherapy?

Vets often use chemotherapy when there’s a risk of the cancer spreading in your pet or if there are extensive tumors.5

Many times, it’s implemented after surgery to target any cancerous cells the surgery didn’t remove. And in other cases, chemotherapy is used prior to surgery to shrink a tumor and make surgery safer or easier.5

The length of time your pet will need chemotherapy will vary depending on the stage of the cancer and numerous other factors. Some dogs receive chemo for the remainder of their lives.

How Is Chemotherapy Administered?

Your dog can receive chemotherapy in many ways. The course of treatment will depend on which drug is being used and the dosing schedule your doctor has recommended.

Chemotherapy can be given orally, via a pill you can feed to your dog at home. It can also be given as an injection at a veterinarian’s office.

There are also metronomic protocols to deliver chemotherapy, where low doses are given in equally spaced time increments. This means your dog could receive their chemo daily or every other day, and metronomic protocols may decrease a tumor’s ability to create new blood vessels.5

Your veterinary oncologist or regular vet will help you decide which chemotherapy method is the best option.

How Often Do Dogs Need Chemotherapy?

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to a dog’s chemotherapy protocol. Instead, the frequency of your dog’s chemo treatments will depend on which type of cancer they have and how they tolerate it in terms of side effects.

Your furry friend could receive chemotherapy every day, once a week, or monthly. The time between doses is completely individualized, as well. Some dogs receive chemo in cycles, which allows their bodies to rest between treatment and create new, healthy cells.6

Dog being treated at a vet

Other FAQs About Chemo for Dogs and Cancer Treatments

You might still have some questions about chemotherapy for dogs. We’ve got you covered.

Is dog chemotherapy worth it?

Chemotherapy may help prolong your dog’s life after a cancer diagnosis, but it’s no guarantee of a positive outcome.

Several factors must be considered when deciding whether or not to pursue this course of treatment. These include the cost of chemo for dogs and potential side effects that may cause your beloved pet discomfort. Consult with your veterinary specialist to help make the best decision.

What’s the success rate for dogs after chemo?

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee chemotherapy will effectively treat or cure your dog’s cancer. It depends on the type and stage of cancer and your dog’s health.

However, there’s plenty of evidence to indicate chemotherapy is often successful. Canine lymphoma, for example, typically responds well to chemotherapy treatment.7

How do I safely handle chemotherapy as a pet owner?

If your pet is receiving chemotherapy, there are some safety precautions you may want to make to minimize risks involved with potential exposure. These can include:8

  • In the first 72 hours following a chemo treatment, pick up any feces your dog excretes, both indoors and out. Be sure to wear latex gloves while doing so, as well as if you need to clean up any other messes, including urine or vomit.
  • If you have other pets or children in the home, try to have your dog who’s receiving chemotherapy go to the bathroom in an isolated or lower-traffic area.
  • If your dog is receiving oral chemotherapy at home, store the medicine out of reach of children and away from any food or human medicine (so, not in your kitchen or bathroom). Wear appropriate gloves when handling and administering the medicine to your pup.
  • Some people should avoid handling chemotherapy at all. This includes children and individuals who are immunocompromised, pregnant, or nursing.

Are there alternatives to chemotherapy?

Radiation and surgery are other ways to treat cancer in dogs, and they’re often used in conjunction with chemotherapy.

Also referred to as X-ray therapy, radiation kills cancer cells. This occurs because cancer cells divide more often and more rapidly than healthy cells, and radiation kills cells that divide rapidly.9

Surgery is typically the most effective form of cancer treatment for dogs. It involves removing the cancerous cells or tumor(s).9

What does dog radiation treatment cost? What about surgery?

Depending on the protocol, radiation can cost between $1,000 and $6,000.2 Surgery costs vary depending on the size and location of a tumor, the type of cancer, size of the dog, and the amount of anesthesia needed.

What’s the quality of life for a dog after radiation?

Many dog owners report being satisfied with their dogs’ quality of life in the aftermath of radiation therapy in the 6 weeks — or longer — following treatment.

In one study, 92% of dog owners indicated they were happy they’d chosen radiation. Nearly the same amount said they’d make the same choice again for another pet with cancer.10

Are there holistic treatments for dog cancer?

Yes, there are holistic approaches to target a dog’s immune system11 that can be used in addition to clinical treatment like chemotherapy and surgery. However, you should still consult with your vet or a certified specialist before attempting any of these options on your own.

Pet Insurance Can Help With Cancer Costs

No pet owner wants to be in a situation where their pet is suffering from cancer or another illness. Between consultations, medications, and other treatments, ensuring your furry friend receives the best care possible can be expensive.

A MetLife Pet Insurance policy may help cover some of the costs associated with medications, vet visits, or injuries as a result of your dog’s anxiety. Here’s a real life example.

When Chevy was dealing with bladder cancer, her family was reimbursed nearly $300 of the $325 bill for one of her exams, thanks to their MetLife Pet Insurance policy. The reduced financial stress meant they could focus solely on loving on Chevy during her battle with cancer.12

Get a free quote today to see if a dog insurance policy is the right option for you while you focus on your pup’s well-being.

Help Protect Your Pup from Major Illnesses

**As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 “Dogs as a Model for Cancer,”

2“Frequently Asked Questions,”

3 “Chemotherapy For Dogs With Cancer: Common Questions,”

4  “Chemotherapy FAQ,”

5 “Chemotherapy,”

6 “Chemotherapy and your pet,”

7 “Improving the Odds of Surviving Lymphoma,”

8 “Chemotherapy Safety,”

9 “Cancer Treatment,”

10 “Owners' perception of their dogs' quality of life during and after radiotherapy for cancer,”

11 “Your Guide to Holistic Cancer Treatment for Dogs,”

12 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife internal claims data from October 2022. Story altered for illustrative purposes.

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact Coverage subject to MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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