Transitional Cell Carcinoma in Dogs

Transitional cell carcinoma in dogs is a cancer of the urinary tract that usually occurs in the bladder. Transitional cell tumors can obstruct the urethra, causing difficult urination, and they can spread the prostate in male dogs. Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms and treatments of this type of canine cancer.

Transitional Cell Carcinoma in Dogs Explained

Your dog's bladder is lined with a special type of cell known as transitional cells. These cells are resistant to the caustic acids found in urine, and their presence in the bladder helps protect your dog's body from the acids and toxins in his own urine.

Vets don't know what causes transitional cell carcinoma, but they suspect that high levels of carcinogens in the urine can contribute to the disease. Treatment with certain chemotherapy drugs seems to increase the risk of this type of cancer. Female dogs also seem more vulnerable to transitional cell carcinoma; vets think that's because female dogs tend to hold urine inside their bladders for longer than male dogs.

Dogs who live in the city seem more vulnerable to this type of cancer, possibly because they are exposed to more environmental toxins. Obese dogs also have a higher risk.

Certain breeds are more prone to develop it, including Beagles, Shetland Terriers, Scottish Terriers and West Highland Terriers. Most dogs develop this disease when they're older; the average age of onset is 11 years.

Symptoms of Transitional Cell Cancer in Dogs

Transitional cell tumors in the bladder can block the urethra, making it hard for your dog to pass urine. Dogs with a bladder tumor may struggle to urinate, and blood, or even clots, may appear in the urine. The symptoms of a bladder tumor are very similar to those of a urinary tract infection, and some dogs even experience improvement with antibiotic treatment. This can make diagnosing and treating canine bladder cancer more difficult.

Diagnosing Bladder Cancer in Dogs

A urinalysis can help your vet rule out bladder infection as a cause of your dog's symptoms. Your vet may even be able to find cancer cells in your dog's urine. X-rays, ultrasounds and cystoscopy can help your vet confirm the presence of a bladder tumor.

Treating Transitional Cell Carcinoma in Dogs

If not treated, transitional cell carcinoma can spread rapidly. If the tumor is still small, it may be removed, but part of the healthy tissue surrounding it will have to be removed. If the entire tumor is removed, the prognosis will likely be good.

If necessary, the entire bladder can be removed, and your dog's urinary tract surgically rerouted so that he will urination through his colon when he moves his bowels. This surgery carries a high risk of complication.

Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and laser therapy can be used to stop the growth of the tumor or reduce its size. Your dog will probably need a catheter placed in his urethra, so that he can continue to pass urine.