Thursday, July 18, 2024

My Dog Has Bladder Cancer

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Back To My Scottish Terrier Patient

Due to the tumors location near the ureters and urethra, surgery was not an option for Sally. Her family did not want to pursue chemotherapy but were hoping to keep her comfortable as long as possible. We started her on a daily dose of Piroxicam. While on Piroxicam, we checked her blood work every two months to make sure the medication was not damaging her kidneys. We also checked her urine for secondary infections and treated with antibiotics when needed.

Sally lived another nineteen months after I diagnosed her with a bladder tumor. Unfortunately, her tumor eventually grew into a blood vessel, causing blood loss. Her family knew it was time to consider preparing for dog euthanasia when the bleeding became severe enough that she was anemic and weak. While they were sad to lose their beloved dog, they were also so thankful for the time they had with her after her diagnosis.

Happy Tails From Clients

  • “Yesterdays visit was not one I wanted to make my cat had a rapidly deteriorating heart and kidney condition and I had to have him put down. I appreciate the kindness and compassion I received from the staff, so important in a situation like this and I could not have asked for better.”- Tracey G.

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What Causes Bladder Cancer In Dogs

The exact cause of bladder cancer is unknown in most cases. It is usually triggered by a combination of specific causes and risk factors such as:

  • Age. Bladder cancer is more common in middle-aged and older female dogs. The cancer is most commonly diagnosed in dogs that are ten years or older.
  • Sex. Female dogs have an increased risk of developing bladder cancer than male dogs.
  • Genetics. Genes play a role in determining a dogs risk for bladder cancer. A test known as the CADET Braf test has been developed to test for the presence of a specific gene mutation that is believed to elevate bladder cancer risk in dogs.
  • Breed. Certain breeds of dogs have a higher risk of bladder cancer. The group of risk breeds includes Shetland Sheepdogs, Scottish Terriers, West Highland Terriers, and Beagles.
  • Chemical exposure. Studies have found a relationship between chronic exposure to lawn chemicals like pesticides and herbicides and the risk of bladder cancer. Research is still ongoing, but it is worth noting for pet parents who use lawn care chemicals often.
  • Inflammation and Infections. It is suggested that chronic and frequent infections and inflammations of the dogs urinary system increase the risk of developing bladder cancer. For example, a bladder stone can trigger chronic inflammation, which in turn may cause bladder cancer.

So What Is The Prognosis Of Tcc

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Unfortunately, TCC is almost always fatal, with or without any medical intervention. Without medical intervention, a dog with TCC might be around for between 4 and 6 months which could be a painful period for them.

On the other hand, medication could extend that time to about a year with slightly improved living conditions.

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How Is The Diagnosis Made

Ultrasound of a bladder showing diffuse disease along the bladder wall

Transitional cell carcinoma cells. Multinucleated neoplastic transitional epithelial cell . Athens Diagnostic Lab, University of Georgia.

TCC is one of the tumor types that can easily seed itself in other locations. For this reason, collecting urine through cystocentesis should not be done to avoid the risk of seeding the tumor cells in the abdomen or skin in the area. Surgery is usually not possible because of the location that these tumors typically occur. They tend to be found in the trigone area of the bladder, which is where the urethra exits the bladder and the ureters enter the bladder. In addition, these tumors often are multifocal within the bladder. In a series of 67 dogs with TCC that underwent surgery, complete tumor-free margins were only obtained in 2 dogs. Of the 2 dogs, one had a relapse in the bladder 8 months later and the other developed metastatic disease.

Are Some Breeds Genetically Predisposed To Bladder Cancer

Although any breed can develop bladder cancer, a genetic predisposition is suspected since the disease is seen in Scottish Terriers far more than any other breed. Shetland sheepdogs, beagles, West Highland terriers, and wire hair fox terriers also appear to face an increased risk of developing bladder cancer. In the majority of cases bladder cancer is diagnosed in middle-aged and senior female dogs of these breeds.

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What Are The Signs Of These Types Of Tumors

The signs of urinary tract tumors depend on what area of the urinary system is affected. Tumors of the ureters, bladder, and urethra can cause hematuria , dysuria , difficulty urinating, and frequent urination. Recurrent and often unresolving secondary urinary tract infections are commonly associated with these types of tumors. If the tumor obstructs the ureter, preventing the flow of urine to the bladder, the kidney will swell with urine causing signs of abdominal pain. If the tumor obstructs the urethra, there may be lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, straining or the inability to urinate.

“The signs of urinary tract tumors depend on what area of the urinary system is affected.”

Tumors of the kidneys can cause abdominal pain, blood in the urine, or non-specific signs such as lack of appetite, nausea or vomiting, weight loss, fever, lethargy, and swelling of the abdomen. Occasionally kidney tumors can cause increased urination and drinking.

Because many urinary tract tumors will spread to other areas in the body , there may be signs elsewhere . Kidney pain can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from back pain.

How Is Bladder Cancer In Dogs Treated

Dogs with TCC

TCC is a difficult disease to treat surgically, but if the tumor is localized to a specific area, surgical removal with or without a tube cystostomy may be an option.

Most cases of TCC in dogs are treated with chemotherapy or radiation due to the nature and location of the tumor.

Some of the common chemotherapeutic agents used for treatment of TCC are:

These are often given in combination with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories that also have some anti-TCC activity.

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Clinical Signs To Look For

Not surprising, many of the clinical signs of bladder cancer in dogs involve urinary issues. Hematuria is a scary and obvious sign that somethings wrong, but it isnt necessarily cancer. Hematuria could also be a symptom of a bladder infection or bladder stones. Other signs include your dog straining to urinate, having repeated UTIs or having frequent small urinary incidents. Sometimes, your dog may urinate in a trickle instead of a stream, because a bladder tumor in dogs can grow over the doorway to the urethra. In that case, one way to treat the symptom is to place a stent to keep the passageway open.

Its critical to know that its considered a medical emergency if a dog is unable to urinate. If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, always watch carefully and bring the dog to your veterinarian or an emergency clinic if he or she cannot urinate.

Your dog also may be lethargic, or struggle to lie down or stand back up, as the mass can cause pelvic discomfort.

Piroxicam For Dogs With Bladder Tumor

Piroxicam has been shown to be effective in some cases of bladder cancer, either alone or in combination with other chemotherapy. In one study on 76 dogs with TCC treated with piroxicam, the tumor went into complete remission in two dogs, decreased in size by > 50 percent in 14 dogs , remained stable in size in 45 dogs, and increased in size by > 50 percent in 15 dogs.

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What Is A Transitional Cell Carcinoma In Dogs

Since the vast majority of bladder tumors are transitional cell carcinomas, lets take a closer look at this tumor type.

In this case, the tumor arises from transitional cells, which are the specialized cells that normally line the inside of the bladder. When some of these cells become neoplastic , the result is a transitional cell carcinoma. Sometimes a TCC is also called a urothelial carcinoma .

The most common place for a transitional cell carcinoma to occur is in the trigone region of the bladder. This is the area at the neck of the bladder where the ureterswhich connect the kidneys to the bladderenter the bladder and the bladder narrows into the urethra. Unfortunately, a tumor in this area cannot be removed surgically.

How Do These Types Of Tumors Typically Progress

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Benign tumors may be of no consequence, never causing any signs of disease. Malignant tumors, however, metastasize to other areas of the body, including the nearby lymph nodes, lungs, liver, bones, brain, spinal cord, and adrenal glands. Since tumors of the urinary tract are more likely to be malignant than benign, staging is always recommended prior to planning and starting treatment. Staging is the process by which diagnostic tests are performed to determine if the tumor has metastasized. Staging could include X-rays of the lungs, spine and hips to screen for spread to the lungs and bones. It may also include ultrasound of the abdomen to screen for spread to the liver, adrenal glands, and lymph nodes.

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Recovery Of Bladder Cancer In Dogs

Your dogs prognosis is poor. Your veterinarian will speak with you regarding your dogs diagnosis, treatment and overall prognosis. In cases where the bladder cancer has already metastasized and your dog is in extreme pain, euthanasia will be recommended.

Early detection of bladder cancer will give your dog a better prognosis. If your dog is a breed that is predisposed to bladder cancer, have them screened regularly. You can take steps to prevent your dog from developing bladder cancer such as limiting their exposure to chemicals, especially herbicides.

Bladder Cancer In Dogs

There are actually different kinds of bladder cancer that dogs can have fibrosarcomas and leiomyosarcomas are just some of them. However, when you hear of bladder cancer in dogs, it most likely refers to Transitional Cell Carcinoma .

TCC is basically a cancer of the inner lining of the bladder. However, it can also be found in other parts of the urinary system including the kidneys, the urethra, the ureters and the vagina/prostate.

Additionally, TCC can be spread through the bloodstream to other areas in the body including the bones, lymph nodes and even the lungs.

Now, if the cancer happens to get to their urethra, it could block the flow of urine, making it difficult and/or painful for them to go number 1. In severe cases, this could then lead to a destruction of the kidney.

On the other hand, if the cancer happens to get to the bones, it could cause bone pain or even make them lame.

No one knows what exactly causes Transitional Cell Carcinoma and there arent any breeds that are predisposed to having it.

However, chronic and consistent exposure to pesticides, petrochemicals and all such chemicals might increase a dogs chances of coming down with TCC.

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Stages Of Dog Bladder Cancer

The stages your dog with bladder cancer goes through will vary case by case. As a simplified explanation, this includes:

  • Stage 1. Recent diagnosis, cancer has extended through the inner lining of the bladder.
  • Stage 2. Cancer has grown into the bladders muscle wall.
  • Stage 3. The cancer has moved into the tissue outside of the bladder.
  • Stage 4. This indicates the spread of cancer in other body parts.

If your dog has recently been diagnosed with dog bladder cancer, he/she will develop signs that can either indicate improvement or decline. A dog still in the early stages of bladder cancer will have a better chance of improvement as opposed to a dog in the later stages.

Dogs showing neither improvement nor deterioration are considered to be in the middle stage . This means that your furry friend still has a chance of healing, as the cancer hasnt developed too far. However, theyre healing at a slow rate or sometimes, not healing at all. The key indicator is your dog is not worsening.

When you hear the words later stage of dog bladder cancer, or stage 3 4, this can imply that your pooch is rearing the end. Although, this does not mean your dog will pass immediately. It simply refers to extreme deterioration caused by the cancer with worsening pains to attribute that.

No matter the stage which your dog is experiencing its bladder cancer, your main priority should be monitoring them carefully.

What Is The Cadet Braf Test And Should My Dog Be Tested

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The CADET Braf test can help vets to detect the presence of a specific gene mutation that is linked to bladder cancers in dogs. This test can be helpful in detecting bladder cancer before symptoms become evident as well as helping vets to determine the extent of the disease, what the best form of treatment may be, and how a dog is responding to chemotherapy.

If your dog is an at-risk breed for bladder cancer ask your vet whether the CADET Braf test is right for your dog.

Note:The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet’s condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

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Symptoms Of Urinary Bladder Cancer In Dogs

Signs of urinary bladder cancer are sometimes confused with a kidney or urinary tract infection. It takes a veterinary exam to rule out any type of infection before giving the diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma. Clinical symptoms include:

  • Straining to urinate
  • Urinating frequently with little flow
  • Blood in the urine


The tumors of botryoid rhabdomyosarcoma can be found in two different places, depending on the dog and, at times, the breed of the dog. Certain breeds are more susceptible to others in terms of characteristics of tumors, such as size and location.

  • Urinary bladder cancer, or botryoid rhabdomyosarcoma, is usually found near the trigone. The trigone is the smooth region inside the bladder, shaped like a triangle. Many of the tumors are located close to the trigone.
  • In some cases, the tumors can be located on the urinary bladder wall. This area is not connected with the trigone.

When To Euthanize A Dog With Bladder Cancer

Regardless of treatment, if the tumor completely blocks the passage of urine, an unpleasant, painful death is imminent within one to two days.

If your dog is struggling to pass urine, humane euthanasia should be considered to alleviate current pain and prevent future suffering.

Other symptoms that can tell you that its time to euthanize your pet include poor appetite, disinterest in drinking, difficulty defecating, withdrawal from family life and a lack of interest in activities that used to bring your dog joy.

Keeping a quality of life diary for dogs with bladder cancer is very helpful.

Every day, rate your dogs ability to eat, drink, urinate and defecate on a scale of one to five. Also give an overall rating for pain control, anxiety, activity and interest family life.

When you notice a sustained, downward trend in one or more of these criteria, have a conversation with your veterinarian to determine if more treatment is available or if its time to consider euthanasia.

© 2011 Home to Heaven, P.C. Content may not be reproduced without written consent from Home to Heaven, P.C. Content updated by Jennifer Coates, DVM 5/2019

Dr. Jennifer Coates

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Diagnosing Bladder Cancer In Dogs

It is not uncommon for bladder cancer to first suspected when your pet’s veterinarian feels the presence of a tumor during a routine examination. Tests that can be used to confirm a diagnosis of bladder cancer include:

  • Urinalysis to look for cancer cells in the pet’s urine
  • Bloodwork to check for impaired kidney function
  • Abdominal ultrasound to look for tumors within the bladder
  • CADET Braf testing

What Are Bladder Tumors In Dogs And How Can You Test For Them

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Ultrasound of a Urinary Bladder in a Dog, the red circle is around a bladder mass.

Cancer detection tests are not common in veterinary medicine for a variety of reasons, but fortunately this is a large area of research right now. The ability to use less invasive tests to detect cancer earlier could significantly improve the prognosis of affected pets. One of the most useful cancer detection tests that has been developed recently is a test to detect bladder cancer in dogs.

Transitional cell carcinoma is by far the most common tumor diagnosed in the bladder of dogs, as it arises from the cells that line the inside of the bladder. This tumor can also originate in the kidney, urethra or in the prostate of male dogs. The test, called the CADET BRAF assay, can detect TCC in any of these locations. A free-catch urine sample is collected either at home or at the veterinary clinic and added to a special collection cup for processing. The sample is submitted for analysis and results are typically returned in 4-7 business days.

TCC can cause clinical signs similar to other urinary tract diseases, such as urinary tract infections, bladder stones, bladder polyps, or other inflammation, so the signs are similar for cancerous vs. non-cancerous causes.

If the test results are negative, it allows us to focus on other treatment options.

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