Canine Bladder Cancer Treatment

Canine bladder cancer is a life-threatening disease that is common in dogs. Some breeds may be more prone to it than others, and female dogs are more likely than males to suffer from this disease. Here's what you should know about recognizing and treating canine bladder cancer.

Causes of Bladder Cancer in Dogs

Vets don't know exactly what causes canine bladder cancer, but they have some ideas. Many vets believe that exposure to insecticides, such as flea and tick dips and sprays, can contribute to bladder cancer in dogs. Dogs that take or are exposed to cyclophosphamide, a drug that can treat some immune disorders and cancers, seem to have a higher risk of bladder cancer.

Some breeds are more likely than others to succumb to canine bladder cancer. West Highland white terriers, beagles, Shetland sheepdogs, Scottish terriers and wirehaired fox terriers are considered most vulnerable. 

Female dogs appear more likely than male dogs to develop bladder cancer. Neutering or spaying your dog increases his or her risk. Obese dogs are also more likely to get bladder cancer. 

Symptoms of Bladder Cancer in Dogs

In many dogs, bladder cancer is already advanced at the time of diagnosis. If you think your dog may be at high risk for bladder cancer, you should watch for the symptoms and seek veterinary care as soon as they appear. Early diagnosis gives your dog the best chance of surviving bladder cancer. Symptoms of canine bladder cancer include:

  • Difficult urination
  • Increased frequency of urination that produces smaller amounts of urine
  • Bloody urine
  • Straining to pass stool
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Coughing

Diagnosing Bladder Cancer in Dogs

Your vet will need a complete medical history and thorough physical exam in order to make a diagnosis of bladder cancer. Your vet will palpitate your dog's bladder, urethra, rectum, and, if your dog is male, prostrate to check for signs of bladder cancer. Your vet may need to perform a range of diagnostic tests, including a urinalysis, blood tests and ultrasounds. 

Treating Canine Bladder Cancer

Surgery is the preferred treatment for canine bladder cancer. Unfortunately, surgery is not often possible, because the tumors are located in a difficult to reach place, or because they have already spread to other parts of the body. If your vet can manage to surgically remove bladder cancer tumors, your dog's prognosis will be much better.

Chemotherapy is another treatment for canine bladder cancer. Chemotherapy can help slow and stop the growth and spread of tumors in your dog's bladder and other organs. Piroxicam, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, has also shown promise in the treatment of canine bladder cancer. Research shows that in up to 75 percent of dogs with bladder cancer, piroxicam slows, stops or regresses the growth of bladder cancer tumors.

Preventing Bladder Cancer in Dogs

If you have an older dog that appears to be having urinary problems, seek veterinary care right away. Chances are good your dog is suffering from bladder infection or another minor illness, but only with veterinary care can you be sure. Even if your vet diagnoses another illness, continue to monitor your dog's urinary habits closely. If symptoms don't resolve, it could be a sign of bladder cancer.

Avoid using flea and tick dips on your dog more than twice a year, and limit his exposure to pesticides. Control your dog's weight, since obesity can contribute to canine bladder cancer.