Stages of Bladder Cancer in Dogs

Learn the stages of bladder cancer in dogs. Become informed into possible treatments, life expectancies and warning signs that bladder cancer may be present. Find out about risk factors.

Scottish Terriers are 20 times more likely to develop bladder cancer. Beagles, Shetland Sheepdogs, West Highland Terriers and Wire Hair Fox Terriers also have a higher risk, as do obese dogs.

Environmentally, there may be a link between bladder cancer in dogs and second-hand smoke. There also seem to be links between insecticides and pesticides and bladder cancer. Stopping smoking in your home, using natural insecticides in your yard and avoiding over-the-counter flea dips and shampoos may reduce the risk.

Signs of Bladder Cancer in Dogs

There are key signs that your dog may have bladder cancer. They include:

  • Blood in the urine

  • Frequent urination with little or no urine passing

  • Straining during urination

As these symptoms are also present with UTIs, it's important to visit your veterinarian. A UTI can be treated with dietary changes and antibiotics, but bladder cancer in dogs requires different treatment.

Stages of Bladder Cancer in Dogs

Dogs with bladder cancer are listed as being in stages 0 to 4. Stage 0 to 1 is a tumor just starting out. They are going to be small and usually there are no symptoms present to tell you there is problem. This is problematic because a dog's prognosis is better when the tumor is caught and treated before it begins spreading to other areas of the body.

During stages 2 and 3, the cancer has grown and is invading much of the bladder. At this point, most dogs will start having problems urinating.

The fourth stage of bladder cancer is when the tumor has started attacking other organs and areas of the body. Generally, it's hardest to treat the cancer at this point. Euthanization may be a kinder option. Once a dog is in the advanced stages of cancer, life expectancy is less than a year.

Treating Bladder Cancer in Dogs

In the past, dogs diagnosed with bladder cancer were usually euthanized because the odds of survival were extremely low. The life expectancies vary, and it's apparent that the earlier treatment is given, the longer a dog will live. Studies have found dogs die within weeks of their diagnosis while others may live for a few years. It all depends on how much the cancer has progressed and what treatments are given.

If the tumor hasn't spread to other areas of the body, removal of the tumor is advised. However, this is not always a possibility because the tumor may be in areas where surgical intervention creates additional problems, such as near the urethra.

Radiation has proven effective at slowing tumor growth. There are problems, however, with scarring in the bladder and irritation to other body organs. Therefore, chemotherapy is the most likely treatment method.

There is growing interest in the use of NSAIDs to treat bladder cancer in dogs. Purdue University led a trial where a number of dogs with fourth stage cancer were treated with NSAIDs. Two dogs had the cancer go into full remission. Nine dogs had the tumor shrink by more than 50 percent. Therefore, some veterinarians may mix the use of Chemo with NSAID use.