Bladder cancer in dogs
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Bladder cancer in dogs

Dogs
Health & Safety

Bladder cancer is one of the more severe cancers that can affect dogs, although it is fortunately not one of the more common ones, accounting for only about one in every hundred cancer diagnosis in dogs. While there are a range of different types of cancer that can affect the bladder of the dog, the most common variety is called transitional cell carcinoma, and this type of cancer tends to be stealthy in its development, with initial symptoms being subtle and hard to identify to those who are not familiar with the symptoms.

In this article, we will look at bladder cancer in dogs in more detail-including risk factors for this type of cancer, symptoms that you should be on the lookout for at home, how treatment is attempted and the prognosis for affected dogs. Read on to learn more.

More about bladder cancer in dogs

As mentioned, the most common form of canine bladder cancer is called transitional cell carcinoma, which tends to develop at the site of the ureter where the kidney meets the bladder, in the form of a tumour that ultimately, stops up the functionality of the entire urinary tract.

While the tumour itself tends to be slow to grow, it will not generate obvious symptoms until it is quite advanced, by which time effective treatment or removal can be very difficult.

What causes bladder cancer in dogs?

There is no definitive consensus on the exact causes of bladder cancer in dogs, but there are several situations and risk factors that can lead to an elevated chance for certain dogs developing the condition.

One of the most controversial potential causes of transitional cell carcinoma in dogs is the suggestion that certain types of pesticides and insecticides may contribute to or even cause bladder cancer, particularly products used for sheep and cattle as drenches or dips to eradicate worms and ticks.

What type of dogs are most at risk of bladder cancer?

While any type of dog can potentially develop bladder cancer, it tends to be more prevalent in older dogs, and is more common in bitches than dogs. There is also potentially a hereditary element to the condition, as it tends to appear in certain breeds and types of dogs more than others, including Scottish terriers and Beagles.

What are the symptoms of bladder cancer in dogs?

Bladder cancer of the transitional cell carcinoma type tend to be slow to develop and form a tumour that develops gradually over time, meaning that it might not lead to symptoms until it is quite far advanced.

This means that staying vigilant to the very earliest symptoms of bladder cancer is important, because very day counts when it comes to beginning treatment promptly in order to ensure the dog’s chances of survival are as high as possible.

Some of the symptoms of canine bladder cancer that you may spot at home to be on the alert for are as follows:

  • Signs of pain when your dog tries to pass urine.
  • Needing to pass urine frequently, and only managing a little each time.
  • Being unable to urinate when your dog tries to pass water.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • A tendency to suffer from repeated or chronic bacterial infections of the bladder that may be hard to clear up.
  • A slightly high fever may be present or recurrent.
  • A soft, chronic cough may be present, which might also lead to exercise intolerance and problems getting enough air when exercising.
  • Your dog is apt to potentially display some general symptoms of a problem such as behavioural changes, lethargy, loss of interest in food, and an unwillingness to exercise and play.

Your dog will of course be going through internal changes at the same time, including enlargement of the kidneys and of course, the growth of the tumour itself.

If you spot any of these symptoms, it is vital to speak to your vet immediately, particularly if your dog is older and from one of the more at-risk breeds. Your vet will take into account the symptoms that you have noticed at home and your dog’s history, and will need to run some tests as well as of course a physical examination in order to reach a formal diagnosis.

Diagnosis of bladder cancer is made by means of X-ray examination and a blood and urine panel, and your vet may also wish to perform an ultrasound examination too if necessary in order to identify changes to the bladder, kidneys and of course, the size and location of the tumour itself.

What is the prognosis for dogs with bladder cancer?

As mentioned in the introduction, bladder cancer in dogs is a serious condition that tends to be fairly advanced by the time a diagnosis is made, and unfortunately recovery rates after treatment are around 50%. Generally, surgical removal of the tumour itself, ensuring that all of the cancer is removed with good margins is the most effective form of treatment and if viable, will give your dog the best possible chance of recovery.

Chemotherapy may be used alongside of surgery if necessary, or can be used alone in order to shrink and slow the progression of the tumour. This may be decided upon if the tumour needs to be reduced in size in order to be operable, or if surgery is not possible.

However, chemotherapy alone is generally considered ineffective at fully treating canine bladder cancer.

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