The issue about what to expect when a dog has bladder cancer is a pretty dreary one. If you are searching for this on the internet, you are probably just trying to understand what it is your dog is going through.
So, in this article, we’ll be taking you through what bladder cancer in dogs is about and if there is anything you can do to help your dog.
We will mention here, though, that your vet is the best source of info for what you can do with your dog. So, whatever you take away from this article, do run it through your vet.
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).
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(s).
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 aren’t any breeds that are predisposed to having it.
However, chronic and consistent exposure to pesticides, petrochemicals and all such chemicals might increase a dog’s chances of coming down with TCC.
Symptoms Of Transitional Cell Carcinoma
Initially, a dog that has TCC will present symptoms that are similar to those of a urinary tract infection.
So, they might exhibit signs such as incontinence difficult urination, painful urination, blood in urine and they might even lick their vulva/penis frequently.
As the cancer progresses, you might start to notice that they find it difficult to walk or sit and there might be some skin irritation on the inside of their legs that comes in contact with urine.
Some might stop eating, lose some weight and even have difficulty breathing.
Now, be aware that dogs, and animals in general, are hardwired to hide their pain as some sort of protective instinct.
So, if your dog’s pain is evident; that is, they are howling or growling or whining, it means they need immediate medical attention.
Treatment For Transitional Cell Carcinoma
First of all, to diagnose a dog of TCC, the most accurate test is a biopsy which is basically an evaluation of the cancer cells. These cancer cells can either be retrieved through surgery or using a catheter.
Other tests that could be run include blood work (which will only be effective if the cancer has spread to the kidney(s)), a urinalysis (which might not be very accurate because a urinary tract infection might present the same signs) or a chest imaging (which will only be effective if the cancer has spread to the lungs and lymph nodes).
Once a dog has been diagnosed with TCC, the treatment option will now depend on the size and area of the cancer tumor.
A surgery can be done to remove the tumor. However, because TCC usually appears at the intersection among the ureters, urethra and the bladder, it is almost impossible to get out the entire tumor without messing up something.
If it appears in a localized place, though, your vet might be able to get most of it out. That said, removing most of it is just buying time as the tumor will grow again.
Other treatment options are chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Chemotherapy hasn’t been known to work for dogs with TCC.
And while radiation therapy has probably had a few successes, it has some not so encouraging side effects.
So, What Is The Prognosis?
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.
Thinking About Euthanization
We know that this is a tough call to make and you want to have your dog for as long as possible. However, do think about how your dog might be feeling.
Monitor your dog throughout the process. You need not think about euthanization if they seem fine; still eat right, play around and generally have a good disposition.
However, if they seem like the pain is overbearing and they no longer have a will to live, euthanization might be the humane thing to do.
All these might come as a shock to you what with all the things your dog might be going through.
So, sit with your vet and let them talk you through the options that are available to you and your dog.