Dog Bladder Cancer – What to Expect

Dogs suffering from bladder cancer may exhibit several symptoms, including blood in their urine, urinary frequency or urgency and pain during urination. Additional indications could include weight loss, lethargy and difficulty defecating.

Diagnostic procedures usually consist of urinalysis, radiographs and cystoscopy; additionally a hematology profile may also be conducted to assess kidney function.

Symptoms

Bladder cancer in dogs is a devastating illness, but you can help your pet live as long as possible with it by visiting their vet regularly for wellness examinations and making sure he maintains an ideal body weight. Furthermore, lawn treatments or chemicals that irritate his urinary tract should be minimized, along with taking him immediately if any signs of illness arise; especially urinary tract symptoms. Prognosis depends upon several factors, including type and staging of tumor; early stage transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) patients typically fare better than those diagnosed with higher grades or invasive TCC forms.

symptoms of bladder cancer can include blood in the urine, pain during urination and increased frequency or urgency of urination. If cancer spreads to other parts of the body, additional symptoms could include vomiting, loss of appetite and difficulty defecating.

Diagnosing a bladder tumor begins with a physical exam and medical history review. Urinalysis should then be conducted to examine the contents of the bladder for abnormal cells or signs. A radiograph of the abdomen as well as potentially CT or MRI scanning may also be necessary in order to ascertain if the tumor has spread elsewhere, such as to other organs like lungs.

If TCC has spread, it is important to realize that it is almost always fatal. Even with treatment, many dogs with high-grade and invasive forms of the cancer will eventually need to be put down as the cancer interferes with their ability to pass urine.

laser ablation (which destroys part of the tumor), radiation therapy and tube cystostomy are available as palliative treatments for TCC in dogs, as well as chemotherapy drug piroxicam – proven effective against bladder cancer in canines – is also an option; according to one Purdue University study dogs treated with it survived on average an additional 195 days on average! Radiation therapy has long been utilized as a remedy against TCC while simultaneously improving quality of life in many pets but does not guarantee complete healing.

Diagnosis

Tumors of the urinary bladder and urethra (tubes that carry urine from kidneys to bladder) account for roughly one percent of canine cancer, with transitional cell carcinoma being most prevalent (1,2). This form of tumor may spread outside of its original location (metastasis), usually to lymph nodes but less often bones or lungs (1,2).

Early diagnosis of bladder cancer in your dog may be frightening, yet early intervention can make a critical difference to his prognosis. Bladder cancer typically makes its first appearance after showing clinical symptoms such as blood in the urine (hematuria), straining to urinate frequently or repeat UTIs, difficulty defecating, weight loss or lethargy as well as difficulty urinating due to bladder obstruction or lameness caused by metastasis to other organs such as lungs or bones.

Unfortunately, many of these symptoms may be easily mistaken for other medical issues. Hematuria can be seen both with bladder cancer and bladder stones; typically this will improve with antibiotic treatment as though you were treating for urinary tract infection rather than bladder cancer.

Your veterinarian will conduct comprehensive health history and physical exams on your dog as well as run diagnostic tests on their urine. A test known as CADET Braf can detect tumor cells present, but should not be taken as definitive proof that a positive result indicates bladder cancer; rather it could indicate urinary tract infection instead.

An ultrasound of the bladder and abdomen is an integral component of diagnostic workup for dogs and cats. Your veterinarian will use this tool to detect tumors within the bladder itself as well as nearby structures like the urethra or ureters (tubes that transport urine from kidneys to urinary bladder).

Your veterinarian may suggest additional diagnostic tools, including cystoscopy, biopsies of the bladder or urethra, urethrodynamic studies and/or urinalysis. Anti-tumor drugs like Piroxicam may also help relieve pain associated with bladder cancer in dogs.

Treatment

Treatment can dramatically enhance a dog’s quality of life when bladder cancer has not spread beyond the bladder. Unfortunately, however, due to high rates of metastasis from bladder cancer cells to other parts of their bodies it can be challenging.

Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) is one of the most prevalent types of bladder cancer among canines. This malignant tumor originates in the epithelial cells that line the bladder and may eventually spread deeper layers of muscle and lymph nodes in its path, often leading to blood in urine output, pain during urination and difficulty defecating. TCC may also cause blood in urine output as well as difficulty defecating.

If a dog has TCC, their veterinarian will recommend performing a biopsy in order to better understand what is causing its symptoms. This can be done either surgically or by collecting cells through catheter in the bladder; sometimes cystoscopy may also be used as part of this procedure to visualize and collect samples of tumor. Once completed, this test will provide both diagnosis and recommendations for treatment options.

TCCs can often be difficult to treat surgically because of their proximity to organs like the urethra and ureters. Even when surgical removal can be accomplished, often only partial removal occurs as it often cannot reach all areas within the bladder wall where cancer lurks – therefore most treatments for TCCs tend to be palliative rather than curative in nature.

Many different chemotherapy protocols have been studied for their ability to extend survival in dogs with TCC, including those containing doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide, to be given every week or two over several months. Radiation therapy may help alleviate pain while prolonging life; however, this approach should never be seen as a cure and may have serious side effects.

Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like Piroxicam, have been demonstrated to possess anti-tumour properties in dogs suffering from TCC. Veterinarians will review your pet every 4-8 weeks to monitor whether the treatment plan is working; if the tumor shrinks and your pet seems comfortable then continue the course; otherwise a different plan will be established.

Prognosis

Dog bladder cancer is one of the most frequently seen cancers among pet dogs and has an especially high mortality rate due to intermediate and high grade, invasive transitional cell carcinoma (TCC).

TCC forms in transitional epithelial tissue in the bladder and may spread to lymph nodes and liver before spreading up toward kidneys through ureters or down into the urethra or even onto male dogs’ prostate.

Early signs of bladder cancer include straining to urinate and finding blood in the urine, along with increased urination, incontinence and pain that worsen as cancer advances – symptoms often misinterpreted as urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Early cancer detection improves prognosis significantly. Early cancer is often easier to treat due to having less molecular changes that lead to drug resistance pathways than cancer diagnosed at later stages.

Biopsy is generally required to confirm a bladder tumor diagnosis. Ultrasound of the bladder and abdomen should also be conducted to assess all areas including lymph nodes that could potentially be involved with bladder cancer spread. If biopsy is not possible, fluid samples can also be collected to obtain cells for culture purposes.

Surgery remains the best treatment option for treating canine bladder cancer. While surgeons strive to remove as much of the mass as possible in order to attain clean margins, microscopic tumor cells may remain even after successful removal surgery.

Chemotherapy has proven its efficacy against TCC by improving survival rates in dogs. Treatment is administered either intravenously or orally weekly and, depending on its protocol, has approximately 40% to 70% chance of shrinking or slowing tumor growth.

Palliative treatments such as laser ablation of tumors, radiation therapy and urethral stenting may improve quality of life for dogs with advanced bladder cancer; however, they will not cure or extend survival.

Lisa Thompson
 

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