A Primer on Canine Bladder Cancer

Cancers of the bladder and related structures (e.g., the urethra) are relatively uncommon in dogs.

The most common type of canine bladder cancer transitional cell carcinoma (TCC). TCC is a locally invasive tumor that usually develops at the neck of the bladder, where it feeds into the urethra.

This cancer typically occurs in older dogs, most often in Beagles, Scotties, Airedales, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Collies.

Further information: Transitional cell carcinoma in dogs

Risk factors include:

  • obesity
  • exposure to herbicides
  • older topical insecticides
  • breed
A Primer on Canine Bladder Cancer

Common symptoms

The most common signs of urinary tract cancer are:

  • recurrent urinary tract infections
  • straining to urinate
  • frequent urination of small amounts
  • and blood in the urine

In some cases, cancer can block the outflow of urine, leading to persistent straining but little to no urine flow.

Canine bladder cancer diagnosis

The diagnosis begins with a thorough physical examination.

It is often difficult to feel these tumors by abdominal palpation. However, rectal or vaginal (when applicable) examination may reveal a thickened area at the neck of the bladder.

Urinalysis may reveal blood in the absence of infection or the presence of cancerous cells.

Bladder cancer usually does not appear on plain x-rays, so your veterinarian may recommend contrast radiography. In this procedure, dye and/or air are injected into the bladder (through a catheter) to outline the bladder wall.

The veterinarian can also visualize the wall of the bladder using ultrasound.

Other tests may include:

  • blood work to check overall health
  • chest x-rays to look for metastases, which develop in about one-third of affected dogs

Dog bladder cancer treatment

Surgical removal of the tumor is the treatment of choice. However, this is often difficult without causing damage to the muscles and nerves that control urination, leading to permanent incontinence.

In some cases, radiation and/or chemotherapy can help control tumor growth and keep your pet comfortable.

Unfortunately, the overall prognosis for pets with transitional cell carcinoma is guarded to poor, especially if cancer has already metastasized to lymph nodes or other organs.

Related articles:
My Dog’s Pee

Further reading:
Bladder Cancer in Dogs
Emerging diagnostic tools and therapies for bladder cancer in canines
Urine luck: A new test for canine bladder and prostate cancer

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