The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) supports the use of cytotoxic drugs in the treatment of neoplastic disease in companion animals where there is evidence that such agents have a beneficial effect on quality of life, survival or both. However, many of these drugs have toxic properties which can have adverse effects on the animal, people in contact with the animal and the environment, and should be taken into consideration when undertaking chemotherapy.

The following risks should be considered when using cytotoxic drugs:

  • Risk to animal receiving chemotherapy
  • Risk to owner(s) of animal receiving chemotherapy and any other people in close contact with the animal
  • Risk to veterinary staff handling and administering drugs
  • Risk to the environment through direct contamination from chemotherapeutics and from the excretions and secretions of the animal (including saliva, vomit, urine and faeces).

If providing cytotoxic treatment, both the practice and any clinicians involved in the patient care should ensure that they have the facilities and expertise to store and administer the treatment safely, to dispose of waste, and also to monitor an treat adverse events.


January 2022

Background information


Hayes A (2005) Safe use of anticancer chemotherapy in small animal practice. In Practice (27); 118127.

Smith AN, Klahn S, Phillips B, Parshley L, Bennett P, Flory A, and Calderon R (2018) ACVIM small animal consensus statement on safe use of cytotoxic chemotherapeutics in veterinary practice. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine (32); 906-913. DOI.1111/jvim.15077


Reviewed by members of BSAVA Scientific Committee (Alexander German, Jeremy Kirk, Caroline Kisielewicz, Lisa Morrow, Ian Self, Melissa Upjohn, James Warland) 2022

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