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Infectious Complications & Canine Cancer

Clinician's Brief (Capsule)


|April 2016

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Cancer patients are prone to developing infections after chemotherapy treatment, and this has been primarily attributed to myelosuppression. Neutrophil dysfunction has been reported as a consequence of chemotherapy in humans; however, no data have addressed this in canine patients.  

This study’s objective was to assess neutrophil function in dogs with lymphoma receiving chemotherapeutic drugs and to compare results to healthy, untreated control dogs. Flow cytometric techniques were used to assess neutrophil oxidative burst and phagocytic activities at baseline, 7 days, and 21 days after induction chemotherapy in 20 dogs with lymphoma, and also in 11 healthy dogs. Results suggested that induction chemotherapy suppressed the percentage of neutrophils capable of oxidative burst  in dogs with lymphoma, and that phagocytic activity improves over time. The authors concluded that neutrophil dysfunction’s impact on the incidence and severity of sepsis in dogs receiving chemotherapy should be investigated. 


This study takes an important step in further understanding cancer immunology. An important take-home point is that neutrophil function was altered in dogs with lymphoma undergoing chemotherapy. This area of research may allow chemotherapy protocols to be tailored and intensified with the goal of increasing disease-free time intervals. Other important data, such as the incidence of clinical infections in this population, are not yet known and were not an aim of this study. Regardless, this should serve as a reminder that patients undergoing chemotherapy are potentially at increased risk for infectious complications. Clients should be reminded to avoid densely populated areas (eg, dog parks, grooming facilities), use appropriate anthelmintic prophylaxis, and minimize other potential risks (eg, raw food diets).—Jonathan Bach, DVM, DACVIM, DACVECC

This capsule is part of the One Health Initiative.


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