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Urinary Bladder Cancer in Dogs

By: Dr. Jeffrey Philibert

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Diagnosis

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize urinary bladder cancer and exclude other diseases. Tests may include:

  • Complete medical history and physical examination including rectal examination to palpate the urethra, bladder neck, male prostate gland and local lymph nodes

  • Plain X-rays of the abdomen to evaluate for masses and lymph node enlargement and of the chest to evaluate for metastasis

  • Complete blood cell count

  • Serum biochemistry tests to evaluate your pet's general health, other body systems, and to identify metabolic consequences of urinary obstruction

  • Urinalysis to evaluate for white cells, red cells, bacteria or tumor cells

  • Cytology examination of urine to evaluate for tumor cells

  • Abdominal ultrasound examination to evaluate the location and extent of the bladder tumor, the status of regional lymph nodes, and the presence of obstruction of the urinary tract

  • Contrast dye X-ray studies to evaluate the location and extent of the bladder tumor in the place of abdominal ultrasound examination

  • Urethrocystoscopy by passing a rigid or flexible scope into the urethra and bladder under anesthesia to identify the location and extent of the tumor. This procedure allows for biopsy of the tumor, but usually requires referral to a veterinary specialist.

  • A relatively new test called V-TBA has become available to screen for the presence of a bladder tumor marker in the urine of dogs suspected to have transitional cell carcinoma.

    Treatment

    Your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary cancer specialist (oncologist) to discuss treatment options. Treatment for urinary bladder cancer may include one or more of the following:

  • Surgery for small masses confined to certain locations in the body of the urinary bladder. Unfortunately, many transitional cell carcinomas are found in parts of the bladder that are not amenable to surgery.

  • Cancer chemotherapy for some dogs with transitional cell carcinoma

  • The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug piroxicam (Feldene®) has show some promise in symptomatic treatment of some dogs with transitional cell carcinoma. In one study, tumors regressed in approximately 25 percent of treated dogs, remained stable and did not grow in 50 percent of treated dogs, and progressed in 25 percent of treated dogs.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Evaluation for cancer of the urinary bladder is warranted if you have an older dog and notice blood in the urine, increased frequency of urination, and straining to urinate that either does not respond to routine treatment with antibiotics or that resolves only to return after stopping antibiotic treatment.

    You should seek veterinary care immediately if you suspect that your pet is unable to urinate. Inability to urinate leads to severe metabolic complications called uremia within less than three days of complete urinary obstruction.

    Watch your pet closely for changes in urinary habits after diagnosis has been made and treatment begun, because such changes may indicate additional tumor growth.

    Avoid dipping your dog with flea and tick control products more than two times per year due to possible increased risk of developing bladder cancer. If you live in an area of the country where fleas and ticks are a year-round problem, talk to your veterinarian about alternative forms of flea and tick control.

    Obesity may predispose your pet to this type of cancer. Regular exercise and diet control are recommended for the general health of your pet.

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