Urinary Bladder Cancer in 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.

In-depth Information on Urinary Bladder Cancer in Dogs

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

  • Bacterial lower urinary tract infection (UTI or cystitis). Bladder infections are relatively common in dogs and cause signs similar to those seen with bladder cancer. Bacterial cystitis is more common in females than males. Diagnosis is made by evaluating results of urinalysis and bacterial culture and sensitivity of the urine. Animals with bladder cancer can develop bacterial UTI because the bladder’s natural defenses have been damaged, and bladder cancer should be considered in older dogs that have repeated episodes of UTI or UTI that does not respond to appropriate antibiotic treatment.
  • Cystic calculi (bladder stones). Bladder stones are relatively common in dogs and cause signs similar to those seen with bladder cancer. Bladder stones irritate the lining of the bladder blood in the urine, straining to urinate and increased frequency of urination.
  • Benign tumors of the bladder. Polyps and other benign growths such as leiomyomas, which are benign tumors of smooth muscle, can occur in the bladder but are quite rare. Such masses may be removed by surgery and do not usually return.
  • 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:

  • 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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