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Urinary Bladder Cancer in Dogs

By: Dr. Jeffrey Philibert

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Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

Diagnosis

Diagnostic tests are needed to identify urinary bladder cancer, exclude other diseases and determine the impact of bladder cancer on your pet. Tests may include:

  • Complete medical history and thorough physical examination including rectal examination to evaluate the urethra, bladder neck, prostate gland in males and local lymph nodes.

  • Abdominal and chest X-rays to evaluate for abnormalities of the bladder, enlargement of local lymph nodes and spread of cancer to the lungs. It is not unusual for bladder cancer to spread to the local lymph nodes in the abdomen.

  • Complete blood cell count (CBC) to evaluate red cells, white cells, and platelets, which are responsible for normal blood clotting. The CBC is a standard screening test to assess your pet's general heath and insure that it is safe to perform other procedures, such as surgery, on your pet. The presence of anemia may suggest longstanding or severe blood loss or a chronic disease process.

  • Serum biochemistry tests to evaluate your pet's general health, assess the function of other organs such as the liver and kidneys and identify electrolyte and acid base disturbances.

  • Urinalysis to evaluate for the presence of white cells, red cells, bacteria and crystals. Occasionally, bladder tumor cells can be identified by microscopic examination of the urine. Kidney function can be evaluated by a test of urine concentration called "specific gravity."

  • Abdominal ultrasound to evaluate for tumors in the bladder and urethra, stones in the urinary tract, or urinary tract obstruction. Ultrasound examination allows internal structures to be evaluated on a monitor as ultrasonic waves are transmitted to and reflected from tissues. Ultrasound is a specialized procedure that may require referral to a veterinary specialist. It is not painful to your pet and is tolerated well by most dogs. It does require that some of the pet's hair be shaved from the abdomen.

  • Special contrast X-ray studies to evaluate for bladder tumors, stones, or urinary tract obstruction. Radiographic dye is called "positive" contrast because it appears white on the X-ray, and air is called "negative" contrast because it appears black on the X-ray. Either can be introduced into the bladder via the urethra to evaluate for bladder tumors. Such a study is called a urethrocystogram.

  • Cystoscopy to evaluate the urethra and bladder for stones, tumors or congenital defects. Cystoscopy is a specialized test in which a flexible or rigid scope is passed into the urethra and bladder for direct visualization while the pet is under general anesthesia. This test typically requires referral to a veterinary specialist. It allows bladder tumors to be identified by their characteristic "frond-like" appearance and allows biopsy samples to be taken for pathologic analysis.

  • The V-TBA, or urinary tumor bladder antigen, test has been developed recently to allow identification of tumor markers in urine.

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