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Ovarian Tumors in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Ovarian tumors are cancerous growths associated with the ovaries, which are the female sex glands where eggs are formed. It is unclear what contributes to the cause of ovarian tumors, except the presence of ovaries in an intact female. There are many different types of ovarian tumors, with carcinomas being the most common.

Ovarian tumors are rare in dogs, which more likely reflects neutering practices than resistance to tumor formation. The majority of cases are seen in older dogs, although teratomas are seen in younger dogs. Boston terriers, German shepherds and poodles have a higher incidence of tumors.

What to Watch For

  • Changes in the patient's estrus (heat) cycle
  • Infected uterus
  • Enlarged breasts
  • Hair loss
  • Low blood cell counts
  • Masculinization (male behavior)
  • Ascites (fluid in the abdominal cavity)
  • Abdominal enlargement
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing associated with fluid in the chest cavity secondary to metastasis (spread of cancer)

    Diagnosis

  • Baseline tests, to include a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis are recommended, although they are usually within normal limits.

  • Careful abdominal palpation is often helpful, as some ovarian tumors can be felt by hand.

  • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays) may reveal a mass in the area of the ovary, rule out other masses, or reveal fluid sometimes seen with ovarian tumors.

  • Thoracic radiographs are an important part of the work up as metastasis to the chest cavity is not uncommon in these patients.

  • Abdominal ultrasound may be more sensitive in identifying ovarian tumors.

  • Cytology (evaluation of cells) in abdominal or thoracic fluid (if present) may confirm cancer.

  • Biopsy and microscopic evaluation are necessary for a definitive diagnosis.

    Treatment

  • Surgical removal (ovariohysterectomy) is the treatment of choice in those individuals who do not appear to have metastatic disease.

  • Concurrent chemotherapy may be of benefit.

    Home Care and Prevention

    It is very important to follow the instructions given to you by your veterinarian. Follow up with abdominal and thoracic radiographs every several months to monitor for recurrence and metastasis is indicated.

    Although some patients do well, the prognosis with ovarian tumors remains guarded.

    The best way to prevent ovarian tumors is to remove the ovaries. Have your pet spayed early in life.

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