Jump to section

What is Electrochemotherapy?

Electrochemotherapy (ECT) is a relatively new, cutting edge treatment method for treating canine cancer. This involves enhancing the delivery of traditional chemotherapy by using an electrical field. An electrical field is delivered to the cancerous mass for only a few milliseconds. This causes the cancer cells to become more permeable for approximately an hour after treatment. This increases chemotherapy absorption by up to a thousandfold. In fact, ECT has successfully treated forms of cancer which do not typically respond to chemotherapy.

ECT is only offered at a few specialist cancer centers in the United States. It is more popular in Europe.

Electrochemotherapy Procedure in Dogs

  1. The veterinary specialist will first perform a physical examination and assess the dog’s history. Fine needle biopsy, tissue biopsy, x-rays, ultrasounds, and blood work will also be taken.
  2. Each tumor is examined and treated separately.
  3. The specialist will choose the appropriate electrodes to use for treatment before preparing the chemotherapy drugs (typically cisplatin or bleomycin). These may be administered intravenously or injected directly into the tumor.
  4. General anesthesia or a strong sedative is then administered.
  5. A gel is applied to the skin prior to the application of the electrodes, which are connected to a pulse generator and control screen.
  6. Electric pulses are then delivered to the tumor. The frequency and interval between each pulse will vary based on the cancer and type of electrode used.
  7. All contaminated material is then disposed of.
  8. The dog will be hospitalized, usually for up to two hours, until it is conscious and stable.
  9. Most dogs will require up to three treatments.
arrow-up-icon

Top

Efficacy of Electrochemotherapy in Dogs

ECT is one of the most revolutionary cancer treatments available today. It is incredibly safe and can be used in conjunction with other treatments. ECT allows chemotherapy drugs, particularly bleomycin, to better permeate cancer cells. This drug, however, is formed of large molecules that may not reach the cancer cells. ECT allows these molecules to enter and destroy the cells. 

Clinical trials have proved promising in both animals and humans. At present, ECT works best for skin tumors and those affecting the subcutaneous tissues. The success rate of ECT is 80%, and the results often last longer compared to cases treated with chemotherapy alone. Surgical treatment has a success rate of just 50%.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Electrochemotherapy Recovery in Dogs

You will need to monitor your dog for the first few hours after the procedure while the anesthesia or sedative wears off. The procedure is not typically painful, and does not cause adverse effects. However, if you notice signs of an allergic reaction to the sedative or anesthesia, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Follow-up appointments will be scheduled for one, two, and four weeks after therapy to monitor the condition. The appointments will then be scheduled monthly after the fourth week. Additional appointments may be required to administer other forms of treatment.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Cost of Electrochemotherapy in Dogs

The cost of ECT will vary based on the number of treatment sessions, as well as standards of living and additional treatment costs incurred. ECT is much more cost-effective than chemotherapy and radiation, with an average price of $1,500.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Dog Electrochemotherapy Considerations

The efficacy of ECT is still being evaluated. However, numerous veterinary specialists across Europe have offered the procedure since 2004. Current veterinary literature shows that ECT is a safe, effective, and revolutionary cancer treatment that has the potential to vastly improve the quality of life for dogs diagnosed with cancer. A complete, long-lasting response is often achieved after just one treatment, and the procedure is far less invasive than surgery.

To date, there are no contraindications for or complications associated with this procedure. The veterinary specialist will discuss all possible complications with you prior to treatment.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Electrochemotherapy Prevention in Dogs

Because of the nature of the disease, cancer is impossible to prevent. Dogs diagnosed with and treated for cancer should not be bred.

arrow-up-icon

Top

*Wag! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Items are sold by the retailer, not Wag!.

Electrochemotherapy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

question-icon-cta

Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

Vinise

dog-breed-icon

pitbull

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Tumor Growth

Hello, my dog was recently diagnosed with a grade 3 mast cell tumor. It was successfully surgically removed, however, 2 more tumors have developed since then. Her surgery was in February of this year. How effective is this treatment for high grade mast cell tumors? She is also currently undergoing chemotherapy as well. Thank you!

April 5, 2018

Vinise's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Treatment for high grade mast cell tumours is more about keeping a patient comfortable (palliative) than being curative, although this varies from case to case. The second link below is to a page on a website of a referral practice in the United Kingdom which has an interesting article on mast cell tumours which is worth reading; the first link is to one of our pages on this type of tumor and the third is a link to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons page. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/condition/mast-cell-tumors www.fitzpatrickreferrals.co.uk/conditions/canine-mast-cell-tumours/ www.acvs.org/small-animal/mast-cell-tumors

April 5, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Vander

dog-breed-icon

Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

11 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Several Tcc Tumors Various Sizes

Where can I get this done? My ShihTzu has TCC in the bladder walls and the tumors have moved to his lymph nodes. He is 11 and is in otherwise excellent health.

March 25, 2018

Vander's Owner


answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1611 Recommendations

Unfortunately, without knowing where you live, or more about Vander's specific situation, I'm not sure where you can get electrochemotherapy, or if that is the best option for him. Your veteirnarian should be able to give you a referral to an appropriate care facility to get him taken care of. I hope that he is okay.

March 25, 2018

We live in MN. Is it preferable to start with peroxicam and then move to electrochemotherapy? Or do both or use a different drug. I just don’t want to waste valuable time.

March 26, 2018

Vander's Owner

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

buddy

dog-breed-icon

Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

14 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

My laborador was diagnosed with a hemangiopericytoma 5 years ago on his right elbow. The tumor was removed and came back about 3 months later. We removed it and it had not returned for 5 years. Last April it started to go back. The vet said to wait and observe it because she said removal would not be good because the amount of tissue removed 5 years ago. His vet called me and said we should look into electrochemotherapy. How safe is it for a 14 year old lab he has had the growth for almost a year now and is about the size of a hard ball. It doesn't seem to affect him but it is growing. I am worried about anesthesia and how the procedure would affect him.

Jan. 9, 2018

buddy's Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Without knowing more about Buddy's history, health status, and systemic function, I'm not sure whether the anesthesia would be safe for him. Your veterinarian is able to run some routine lab work and assess his body functions, and can give you an idea as to the risks associated with the anesthetic - there are some very safe anesthetics available now, and if your veterinarian thinks that Buddy would benefit from the electrochemotherapy, it is worth having that discussion with them as far as risks and benefits. I hope that he does well.

Jan. 9, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Tonka

dog-breed-icon

Lab/Husky

dog-age-icon

14 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Regrowth Of Mass

MY 14 year old Lab/Husky mix had a cutaneous melanoma (approx. 1/2 cm.) surgically removed from his lip, just below the right side of his nose on 9/20/17. Histology showed it had started to infiltrate the underlying dermis. It has now started to grow back in the same area, but this time inward on the underside of is lip. He had a chest x-ray on 12/15/17 and so far his lungs look clear. Electrochemotherapy was suggested a good treatment option. Any thoughts? How effective is this treatment for melanoma.

Dec. 17, 2017

Tonka's Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1611 Recommendations

Lesley, thank you for contacting us about Tonka. I'm sorry that he is having these troubles. Electrochemotherapy is a relatively new mode of therapy for certain types of cancers, and has shown promising results. If your veterinarian offers this option, it seems to be a viable treatment alternative for dermal cancers like melanomas.

Dec. 17, 2017

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Buddy

dog-breed-icon

Labrador

dog-age-icon

8 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Tumour Return

Hi, Buddy had electro-chemo on a mast cell tumour (low grade) 7 weeks ago (on 7/6/17). He had a tumour removed 7mths prior to his adoption to me in April 2017. Week 7 after his electro-chemo, just as his scab was starting to shrink, he tumour has come back even bigger. Now I am reading this info sheet and states that some dogs may require a few goes at it. Is it normal for a mast cell tumour to re-appear after such a short time? I mean, his scabs were just starting to shrink and looking good then pow!!!

July 26, 2017

Buddy's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Mast cell tumours may lay dormant for a while, look like they are shrinking then all of a sudden they can grow very quickly; it is not unusual for this to happen and in some cases it is a case of managing the severity and spread rather than curing the tumour. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVMwww.acvim.org/Portals/0/PDF/Animal%20Owner%20Fact%20Sheets/Oncology/Mast%20Cell%20Tumors.pdfwww.vet.upenn.edu/docs/default-source/ryan/oncology-handouts/final-canine-mct.pdf?sfvrsn=4

July 26, 2017

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Baron

dog-breed-icon

Boxer

dog-age-icon

8 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Tumor Growth

Our Boxer Baron has a large spindle cell proliferation soft tissue sarcoma. We have done cytology and have seen an Oncologist. Recommendations vary from chemo/radiation to amputation. I want to look at holistic options, such as electrochemotherapy. We live in Southern Calif, Inland Empire. Looking for Vets that offer this as a procedure.

How can we help your pet?