Going through treatment for cancer is a very difficult and challenging time in your life. The company of pets can help ease the burden and be a source of support. Caring for a pet can also help you stay disciplined and encourage you to go outside for exercise and fresh air. Take steps to ensure your pet stays healthy and happy so it can be a calming companion throughout your cancer experience.
- Start from a healthy place. Have a veterinarian examine your pet to make sure it’s healthy and up-to-date on its heartworm and intestinal parasite preventatives and that it is protected against fleas and ticks. Ask a member of your vet’s staff to provide you with a schedule for future preventatives and to contact you when any update is needed. You can also set a reminder in your smart phone or in a physical calendar.
- Keep your dog active. As the saying goes, tired dogs are happy dogs. When dogs don’t get enough activity, they may start to act out or misbehave. Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise, including extra walks if possible. Have a friend, neighbor or dog walker help you as needed.
- Stick to a routine. Dogs are creatures of habit, so try not to alter their routine too much. They are happiest—and most able to deal with new things—when their routine is stable. (On a related note, this is not the time to bring a new pet into the household.)
- Lock up your medications. Drugs designed to help humans can harm or even kill animals. Make sure your medications are completely inaccessible to your pets. If you are using any type of medicinal cream, don’t let your dog or cat brush up against or lick the area where it is applied. If your pet does ingest some of your medication, call the veterinarian immediately (and call your own doctor to get the medicine replaced).
- Close your toilet lids. Drugs dangerous to dogs and cats may be excreted in your urine and traces may remain in the toilet bowl even after you flush. Be sure to keep the lid tightly closed and consider investing in a toilet lock.
- Keep doors to the outside closed. Remind your visitors to make sure they close the door behind them when they arrive and when they leave. If you have a gated yard, keep the gate closed and locked as a precaution against your pet wandering outside the yard (this also prevents uninvited dogs from entering your yard).
- Make sure your dog is bathed regularly. This is a perfect task to delegate to a friend or family member. Regular baths help keep your pet healthy and provide it with personal attention and affection.
Additionally, here’s guidance for when you come home from the hospital or any health care facility:
- Leave your shoes at the door. Your shoes may be carrying staph, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or other infections which can be transmitted to your pets. Use a disinfectant spray when you arrive home (there are some made specifically for shoes). Leave your shoes at the door or—better yet—outside.
- Change your clothes. Wash the clothes you wore at the health care facility before wearing them again, as they may also carry transmittable infections.
- Keep away from your animals after a PET scan. The radioactive dye used in PET scans can be harmful to your cat or dog (just as it is to children). Stay away from your pets for six hours after receiving a PET scan. To be on the safe side, it’s best to avoid your pet for several hours after a CT scan as well.