Canine Bladder Cancer

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By Tess Thompson

Normally canine and feline urinary incontinence or frequent urination leads to investigations that involve blood and urine tests for the pet. Frequent and severe urinary infections may be the initial warnings of the presence of a tumor in the bladder. The most common type of bladder cancer arises in the epithelial cells that line the bladder (Transitional Cell Carcinoma). The tumor can also be in the glandular epithelium (Adenocarcinoma) or in an epithelial cell that is flat like a plate and forms a single layer of epithelial tissue (Squamous Cell Carcinoma). A highly malignant neoplasm derived from striated muscle (Rhabdomyosarcoma) is rare.

Many symptoms of a bladder cancer are similar to those observed in urinary tract infection in dogs. The first signs are likely to be discomfort in urinating. If you see blood in the urine, you should act immediately since the blood indicates the presence of a growth in the bladder. Some dogs may show signs of exercise intolerance, difficulty in breathing and coughing too.

As with all types of cancers the cause behind the growth is not easily determinable. The common suspects are carcinogenic substances like chemicals in insecticides for killing fleas and ticks and/or mosquitoes in wetlands. Cyclophosphamide, a drug used to treat different types of cancers and certain immune diseases, may also increase the risk of bladder cancer.

Bladder cancer can remain undetected for a long time. It is highly recommended that any occurrence of the symptoms of urinary tract infection in cats and dogs should be investigated completely if you want to ensure early detection and treatment of cancer. This is because if urinalysis and blood tests do not reveal a definite diagnosis, bladder cancer can be suspected and investigated further. An X-Ray usually reveals if there is any type of growth but follow up investigations are resorted to establish the type and nature of the growth. These investigations could lead you to undertake the following:

  • Cytology - For examining and evaluating tumor cells.
  • Either Contrast dye X-Ray or Abdominal Ultrasound - For the purpose of establishing the location and size of the tumor. An ultrasound provides additional knowledge of the condition of the lymph nodes.
  • Urethrocystoscopy - Performed by a veterinarian specialist as it involves introduction of a rigid or flexible scope through the urethra up to the bladder. Along with revealing the location and size of the tumor, this procedure can also be used for biopsy.

If Transitional Cell Carcinoma is suspected the specialist may suggest a new test called V-TBA for determining the likely presence of a bladder tumor marker in the urine.

Benign tumors of the bladder are rare but if they occur they can be removed surgically. Most bladder cancers are malignant and these invade the wall of the bladder and are difficult to remove through surgery. The most common treatment approach that is used currently is to treat the condition with chemotherapy or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Bladder cancer is difficult to treat but, if left untreated, it may ultimately cause a cessation of urination and death.


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