Urinary Bladder Cancer in Dogs

Overview of Canine Urinary Bladder Cancer

The most common bladder tumor in dogs is a malignant tumor called transitional cell carcinoma. This cancer usually arises from the inside surface of the urinary bladder or urethra and less commonly from the muscular wall of the urinary tract. Transitional cell carcinoma accounts for 0.5 percent of all cancers in dogs.

The cause of transitional cell carcinoma is unknown, but carcinogens, or cancer causing chemicals, that are excreted in the urine may cause the cells that line the bladder and urethra to become cancerous. Exposure to insecticide dips applied to kill fleas and ticks may increase the risk of developing this type of cancer. Similarly, exposure to sprays used to control mosquitoes in marshy or wetland areas also may increase risk.

Cyclophosphamide, a drug used to treat cancer and certain immune diseases, is metabolized to a carcinogenic chemical called acrolein, which is excreted in the urine. Exposure to cyclophosphamide may increase a pet’s risk for development of urinary bladder cancer.

Breeds predisposed or reported to be at a higher risk for bladder cancer include Shetland sheepdogs, Scottish terriers, West Highland white terriers, beagles and wirehaired fox terriers.

Female dogs are affected more commonly than males. Neutered dogs are at a higher risk than are intact dogs. Obesity also may predispose to development of this type of cancer.

Urinary bladder cancer is life-threatening. Left untreated, it can result in obstruction of the urinary tract and inability to urinate. This form of cancer can also metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body. At the time of diagnosis, transitional cell carcinoma is estimated to have spread in more than 50 percent of dogs in which it is diagnosed. Survival of dogs with this type of cancer is dependent on the location of the tumor in the bladder, extent of disease and whether it has metastasized, and what treatments are prescribed. Survival time can range from weeks to more than a year.

What to Watch For

Signs of urinary bladder cancer in dogs may include:

In many cases, these signs can be present for many months before diagnosis. If your pet is showing any of these signs and does not seem to be getting better with treatment, additional tests should be done to rule out cancer as the cause.

Diagnosis of Urinary Bladder Cancer in Dogs

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

Treatment of Urinary Bladder Cancer in Dogs

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:

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.

In-depth Information on Urinary Bladder Cancer in Dogs

Other diseases may cause symptoms similar to those of urinary bladder cancer. Examples include:

Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

In-depth Information on 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:

In-depth Information on Treatment

Treatment of bladder cancer rarely is curative and more often is used with the intention of controlling the disease temporarily, relieving partial urinary tract obstruction, and making the pet more comfortable for a variable period of time. Such an approach will usually improve your pet’s quality of life and allow you to spend more time with your pet. Unfortunately, bladder cancer usually is very advanced in dogs by the time it is diagnosed. Often, it already has metastasized to local lymph nodes in the abdomen.

Treatment for bladder cancer may include one or more of the following:

Follow-up Care for Dogs with Urinary Bladder Cancer

Optimal treatment for your dog requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up can be crucial.

Prevention of Urinary Bladder Cancer in Dogs