Dog Bladder Cancer – What to Expect

Dogs diagnosed with bladder cancer don’t always provide owners with much warning that things are getting worse, but taking some simple steps can help both you and your veterinarian manage their quality of life as the disease advances.

Bladder tumors can lead to blood in the urine, pain when urinating and difficulty defecating, as well as spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.

The Diagnosis

Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC) is one of the most prevalent forms of bladder cancer among dogs. This disease can spread to urethra and ureters and disrupt urinary flow; additionally it may spread to nearby lymph nodes and organs in the body.

As these tumors tend to form at the neck of the bladder near where ureters and urethra exit, surgical removal may not always be an option. Any dog unable to urinate should see their veterinarian immediately for assessment.

TCC typically affects older dogs and is more prevalent among males than females. The condition is more likely to occur among dogs with a family history of it or those predisposed genetically; those overweight dogs also face greater risks for contracting it.

Blood in the urine is often the first telltale sign of bladder tumors, and various diagnostic tests can be used to pinpoint this condition. A contrast cystogram involves injecting radiopaque dye into the bladder and taking x-rays while imaging for any tumors; urine samples which look for specific proteins present within its cells; as well as testing for mutations of BRAF gene, which may indicate Urothelial Carcinoma of Bladder Cancer in some dogs.

Palliative treatments may also help improve a dog’s quality of life, including laser ablation and radiation therapy that may eliminate tumor cells. Urethral stenting may be effective at keeping open the urethra to allow passage of urine.

Though a bladder cancer diagnosis may be devastating, don’t despair just yet. Consulting your veterinarian about available treatment options to extend your pet’s life significantly and offer comfort care can bring hope that may lessen his or her suffering. In extreme cases, humane euthanasia could provide another means of relieving suffering in pets.

The Symptoms

Some symptoms associated with bladder cancer can also be indicators of other illnesses, making it essential that any dog exhibiting them seek a complete workup from their veterinarian. This may involve bloodwork, urinalysis and urine culture as well as abdominal ultrasound or CT scan and chest X-rays; less common diagnostic techniques include cystoscopy and contrast radiology which involves injecting dye into the bladder before taking special X-rays to detect tumors more effectively.

Dysuria in dogs occurs due to an obstruction in either their urethra or ureters from tumor growth, often with blood appearing in their urine and experiencing urgency or strain when trying to urinate. Furthermore, as cancer spreads further throughout their bodies, this causes scar tissue build-up in their ureters which could prevent proper function as they try to pass feces through.

Antibiotics may help dogs with bladder cancer to feel better by clearing out infections caused by their disease and clearing out bacteria with antibiotics; or it could just be that their cancer itself has been weaken by taking antibiotics.

Other symptoms of advanced bladder cancer may include lethargy, weight loss and generalized unwellness. If cancer has advanced enough that it obstructs urethra openings, your vet may discuss treatments such as placing a stent to restore an opening for urine flow through.

Note that dogs with bladder cancer may vocalize excessively. This may be a telltale sign they are experiencing pain and need their owners to know this fact. In addition, struggling to urinate could make them anxious or even nervous; thus needing extra comforting care from owners and caregivers alike.

The Treatment

Most bladder cancer in dogs has already spread, making their prognosis for survival less favorable. However, treatments can slow the progression of disease and improve quality of life for your pet.

Bladder cancer affects both male and female dogs and most commonly affects older ones. Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), the most frequently encountered bladder tumor type, invades epithelial tissue lining the bladder as well as muscle tissue; leiomyosarcoma forms from smooth muscle tissue of the bladder and may metastasize elsewhere in the body.

Due to the advanced stage at which most bladder tumors are diagnosed, surgery is rarely an option for treatment. Radiation therapy and urethral stenting may provide temporary relief while still being effective against disease progression. These methods may reduce symptoms but do not completely eradicate the problem.

It is crucial to keep an eye on any changes to a dog’s symptoms over time when dealing with a bladder tumor, and one way of doing this is keeping a journal. Each day, rate your pup’s ability to eat, drink, urinate and defecate on a scale from one to five, along with how he or she feels and its interest in family activities. If any trends emerge which indicate decline, now may be an appropriate time to explore possible treatment options.

As soon as a suspicious lesion has been identified, a biopsy should be conducted in order to diagnose it. Your veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostic tests, including abdominal radiographs and possibly contrast cystography which uses dye visible on radiographs to provide more definitive answers.

Sometimes a veterinarian will recommend needle aspiration to collect samples of tumor cells for laboratory analysis, but this procedure is rarely utilized due to having to insert the needle directly into the bladder and reports of this process actually seeding more tumors throughout the abdomen.

The Prognosis

Prognosis for canines diagnosed with bladder cancer largely depends upon the type of tumor present and whether or not it has spread, though most dogs diagnosed within two to four months are typically euthanized due to rapid progression and difficulty treating this form of cancer. Bladder cancer tends to strike middle-aged or older female dogs more commonly among Scottish Terriers or Shelties than any other breed, though any breed can be affected. It’s especially likely in overweight dogs or those that have experienced multiple urinary tract infections.

If the tumor is localized to one small area of the bladder, surgical removal with or without tube cystostomy (placing a permanent urinary catheter that exits through the skin) may be an option for some dogs. Unfortunately, mass located near where ureters enter and narrow into urethra is usually too big and permanent to remove by surgical means.

Other methods for diagnosing bladder cancer may include performing a cystoscopy, which involves inserting a small scope through the urethra and bladder to retrieve tissue samples for pathology review. There is also a urine test available that can identify mutations of BRAF gene found in transitional cell carcinoma cells – should one be detected, this could help veterinarians more accurately detect bladder cancer since many symptoms associated with it can mimic urinary tract infections or other health problems.

Mitoxantrone has proven highly successful at treating TCC in dogs. Additionally, veterinarians may administer other chemotherapy agents like doxorubicin, palladia or vinblastine; an experimental form combining cisplatin with Piroxicam may also produce positive results in some instances of TCC in some animals.

Radiotherapy may also be used to shrink tumors that cannot be surgically removed or when surgery cannot be chosen for other reasons, like stereotactic radiation which involves fewer treatments with reduced side effects risk. No matter which approach is selected, prioritizing pet comfort must always come first – since dogs with bladder cancer tend to get UTIs regularly so prescribing antibiotics could ease discomfort significantly.

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