Pituitary Tumor in Dogs – Benign but still a Cause of Concern

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By Tess Thompson

Just like the human body, your pet’s body is a complex system of processes that are interdependent. These processes are controlled by organ systems that control each and every function in the body. The endocrine system, for example, is a system of glands that produce endocrine secretions that control the metabolic rate of the body.

The pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, is the master gland of the endocrine system. Pituitary adenomas, a glandular tumor, is one of the less common types of cancer in dogs. Although most of the pituitary tumors are benign, these tumors can increase in size and compress brain tissue. This happens primarily because the space in the skull is limited. As the pituitary tumor increases in size, the neurological disturbances affect a dog’s health in many ways. Unless benign tumors reach a particular size, they are not treated as dangerous.

Symptoms of pituitary tumors are elusive and not as prominent as symptoms of liver cancer in dogs , for example. A dog with a pituitary tumor is usually out of sorts, listless and refuses food. Some abnormal behaviors like walking in circles and seizures can indicate the prevalence of a tumor in the brain.

There is no longer the need to speculate the presence of pituitary tumors. New imaging techniques like CT scan and MRI have made diagnostic procedures easier. But these investigative techniques are expensive. Handling the dogs while the investigation is going on is also a challenge many pet owners find difficult to face. The procedures require the dog to remain in the equipment for a good ten minutes or more. In most cases, the dog has to be anesthetized for proper investigation.

Pituitary tumors in dogs cannot be removed surgically. This is because the area in the brain where the pituitary is positioned is difficult to reach. Therefore, radiation therapy is the only option. Success of radiation therapy for the condition depends largely on the response of the patient. A good majority show signs of improvement with in a month of bi-weekly or tri-weekly treatments. For some others, it may take a couple of months for the treatment to show results.

Radiation therapy is not devoid of side effects, but they seem to cause fewer problems as compared to the disease itself. A little loss of hair and skin pigment and minor hearing loss are not so bad when the alternative prognosis is serious conditions like Cushing’s disease.

Any type of cancer is a serious disease in pets. Pituitary tumors are less common form of feline cancer and almost always benign. Even though technically these cannot be termed as brain cancer, the harm that benign tumors can cause due to compression is large. These tumors, therefore, cannot be ignored.


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