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Bladder Cancer in Dogs - A Pet Parent's Guide

When it comes to cancers of a dog's urinary system, the bladder is the most common place for this heartbreaking disease to strike. Our Englewood vets share some of the causes and signs of bladder cancer in dogs as well as the available treatments.

Are some breeds genetically predisposed to bladder cancer?

Although any breed can develop bladder cancer, a genetic predisposition is suspected since the disease is seen in Scottish Terriers far more than any other breed. Shetland sheepdogs, beagles, West Highland terriers, and wire hair fox terriers also appear to face an increased risk of developing bladder cancer. In the majority of cases bladder cancer is diagnosed in middle-aged and senior female dogs of these breeds.

What causes bladder cancer in dogs?

The exact cause of bladder cancer in dogs is unknown however there appears to be a link between a genetic predisposition and chronic exposure to lawn chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides.

What are the signs of bladder cancer in dogs?

The symptoms of bladder cancer mimic those of other urinary tract conditions such as stones or infections, which makes the disease somewhat tricky to diagnose. If your dog is suffering from bladder cancer you may notice that they urinate small amounts frequently, have difficulty urinating or have accidents in the house. Another sign of bladder cancer can be discolored or bloody urine, or persistent urinary tract infections that are resistant to treatment.

In the later stages of bladder cancer some dogs experience lameness due to the cancer spreading to the dog's bones or lungs.

If your dog is displaying any of the symptoms listed above it is important to seek veterinary care for your pet. While these symptoms may be caused by bladder cancer there are a number of other serious conditions which can also lead to these symptoms. It is essential to get an accurate diagnosis from your vet as soon as possible so that your dog's treatment can begin right away..

How is bladder cancer diagnosed in dogs?

In many cases, bladder cancer is first suspected when the veterinarian feels the presence of a tumor in the dog's abdomen during a routine examination. Tests that can be used to confirm a diagnosis of bladder cancer include:

  • urinalysis to look for cancer cells in the pet's urine
  • bloodwork to check for impaired kidney function
  • Abdominal ultrasound to look for tumors within the bladder 
  • CADET Braf testing

Are dogs with bladder cancer in pain?

Bladder cancer can cause your dog to experience pain while urinating, and if the cancer spreads to your pup's bone the tumor may cause pain and lameness. Your veterinarian or veterinary oncologist will discuss pain management with you when they meet with you to talk about next steps and treatment options for your dog.

Is bladder cancer in dogs fatal?

Sadly, when it comes to the life expectancy for bladder cancer in dogs the prognosis isn't good. Typically, dogs diagnosed with bladder cancer will live for about 4-6 months without receiving treatment and 6-12 months with treatment.

What treatments are available for bladder cancer in dogs?

If your dog is diagnosed with bladder cancer your vet may recommend surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of these treatments. Due to the location of bladder tumors the full surgical removal of the tumor is typically not possible, although in some cases it may be possible to remove part of the tumor in order to temporarily relieve your dog's symptoms. That said, it's important to note that the tumor will regrow after a time. 

What is the CADET Braf test and should my dog be tested?

The CADET Braf test can help vets to detect the presence of a specific gene mutation that is linked to bladder cancers in dogs. This test can be helpful in detecting bladder cancer before symptoms become evident as well as helping vets to determine the extent of the disease, what the best form of treatment may be, and how a dog is responding to chemotherapy.

If your dog is an at-risk breed for bladder cancer ask your vet whether the CADET Braf test is right for your dog.  

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Our Englewood veterinary oncologists have extensive experience diagnosing and treating many types of cancer in dogs. Contact VRCC today to book an examination for your pup.

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VRCC Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Hospital in Englewood is always accepting new patients! Our board-certified specialists and emergency veterinarians are passionate about restoring good health to Denver Metro area pets.

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