Canine Brain Cancer

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Brain cancer in dogs is a common form of cancer and is more common in older pets. It’s a malignant growth of mutated cells that, if left untreated, can prove fatal. Both sexes are equally susceptible to canine brain cancer.

Canine Brain Cancer

Brain cancer is caused by the presence of a tumor or a neoplastic mass consisting of mutated cells that proliferate uncontrollably in the cranial cavity or in the lining known as meninges that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Canine brain cancer is common in breeds such as Golden Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, Scottish terriers, pugs, boxers, Boston terriers and bulldogs.

Young dogs can also be affected by brain cancer especially if they belong to breeds such as boxers or Boston terriers. Several areas of the brain such as the base of the spine, the brain itself, the cranial nerves, the skull, the pituitary gland or the pineal gland can be affected.

Types of Canine Brain Cancer

Primary brain tumors arise from the cells of the brain and its lining and include meningiomas, oligodendrogliomas and pituitary gland adenomas. Secondary brain tumors are metastatic tumors that originate from cancerous tumors in other organs and spread to the brain. These tumors can include mammary tumors, hemangiosarcomas and melanomas. Brain tumors vary widely in their malignancy and some have a poor prognosis while others can be treated effectively.

Causes of Canine Brain Cancer

Brain cancer causes in dogs include:

  • Idiopathic with no identifiable cause
  • Genetic
  • Radiation and electromagnetic fields
  • Toxins such as pesticides and solvents 
  • Dog food that contains nitrosamines such as bacon, ham, sausages and hot dogs

Symptoms of Canine Brain Cancer

Symptoms of dog brain cancer include:

  • Personality changes such as sudden aggressive behavior, shyness, increased barking, licking or depression
  • Lack of or increase in appetite
  • Loss of primary senses such as eyesight, hearing or sense of smell
  • Confusion
  • Failure to comprehend and obey commands
  • Failure to recognize familiar faces or places
  • Incontinence in trained pets
  • Unsteady gait
  • Scratching, shaking or rubbing the head
  • Whining or whimpering with pain 
  • Seizures

Diagnosis of Canine Brain Cancer

A physical exam and a medical history in conjunction with MRI or CT scans of the brain can help a vet diagnose brain cancer in your pet. Blood tests are performed to rule out other conditions. MRI scans are more expensive than CT scans but are also more sensitive and can identify more types of brain cancers than CT scans. A biopsy of the tumor helps identify the severity of the cancer.

Treatment of Canine Brain Cancer

Brain cancer is never eliminated completely and treatment is aimed at prolonging life and alleviating the symptoms. Surgery, as an option, depends on the location and severity of the cancer. Radiation helps shrink the tumor and the symptoms associated with it and can cost nearly $4,000. Chemotherapy is not generally used to treat canine brain cancer.

Prognosis of Canine Brain Cancer

The prognosis is always better if the cancer is diagnosed and treated early. Dogs that receive treatment can survive for a year and dogs that don’t can live for a maximum period of 4 months.

If you observe behavioral changes, it’s best to get the pet checked by the vet at the earliest to rule out brain cancer.


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