The most common bladder cancer in dogs is called transitional cell carcinoma. Survival depends on where in the bladder the cancer is located, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body at the time of diagnosis.
Symptoms of Bladder Cancer in Dogs
Symptoms of bladder cancer in dogs include difficulty urinating, frequent need to urinate while passing only small amounts of urine, blood in the urine, straining to defecate, and difficultly breathing. The reason so many symptoms affect urination is because tumors of the bladder can block the opening of the bladder so that urine cannot exit. This can become life-threatening.
Diagnosis of Dog Bladder Cancer
Most of the symptoms above can be attributed to a urinary tract or bladder infection, so your Veterinarian will look to eliminate that as a cause first. When it is determined that your pet does not have a bladder infection, your vet will have to look further for a diagnosis.
A number of tests will be required in order to diagnose bladder cancer for dogs and to determine the type and extent of the cancer. Tests include:
- A complete physical exam, including a rectal exam, to palpate the urethra, bladder, and local lymph nodes
- A complete blood count
- X-rays to look for masses in the abdomen and chest to see if cancer has spread
- Urine test to look for blood cells, bacteria, or tumor cells in the urine
- Abdominal ultrasound to evaluate the location and extent of the bladder tumor
- The ultrasound can also evaluate for any urinary tract obstruction
Treating bladder cancer in dogs can consist of one or multiple treatment approaches.
For small masses that are confined to the bladder, surgery may be advised. However, bladder tumors are often in locations that are not amenable to surgery.
Chemotherapy is a common treatment for bladder cancer in dogs. Chemotherapy consists of a combination of medications designed to kill cancer cells. There can be a number of side effects, such as vomiting and hair loss, just as humans experience when going through chemotherapy. However, most dogs tolerate chemotherapy quite well.
The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug piroxicam has been found useful in treating bladder cancer in some cases. In one study including 100 dogs, tumors were reduced in 25 cases and tumors remained stable and did not grow in 50 cases. Tumors advanced in the other 25 cases.
Radiation therapy can be used, but has not been found more effective than medical treatment alone. In addition, dogs do not usually tolerate the radiation therapy well. Medical treatment seems to work best.
Bladder Cancer for Dogs: Supplements for Home Treatment and Additional Support
In addition to conventional treatments there are a number of alternative treatments which have proved extremely helpful in treating cancer in dogs. While none of these can cure cancer, they have anti-tumor properties that also help immune system function. Items to look for include:
- Astragalus membranaceous: Recent research has highlighted the ability of this remedy to improve the functioning of the immune system and protect against disease. Recent studies suggest that Astragalus helps to activate the immune system and may prevent the spread of malignant cancer cells to surrounding healthy tissue. Further research conducted by the University of Texas found that an extract of Astragalus helped to restore immune functioning in cancer patients with compromised immune systems. This is particularly important after chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
- Viscum album (Mistletoe): Known for its anti-tumor properties, this herb also helps to lower blood pressure and improve the functioning of the immune system. Results of both human and animal studies suggest that this ancient herb has an important part to play in the supportive treatment of cancer.
- Echinacea purpurea: Known for its excellent benefits for immune functioning and for its antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Regular use can help to keep your dog healthy and resistant to a range of illnesses.
- Withania somnifera (Yarrow) (Ashwagandha): Regular use can help to nourish the blood and increase hemoglobin levels. Recent studies have demonstrated that Ashwagandha has anti-tumor properties and can help to prevent or slow the development of cancers. It is an effective anti-inflammatory and has excellent calming properties. This herb is often recommended to assist with recovery after illness.
- Sylibum marianus (Milk Thistle): Regarded as one of the most important herbal liver tonics and restoratives and medical use of Milk Thistle may be traced back more than 2000 years. Milk Thistle has been subject to many clinical trials which clearly demonstrate its effectiveness. It is frequently recommended to counteract the harmful effects of prescription drugs and vaccinations on the liver, and clinical studies have shown that it helps the liver to return to normal functioning. Scientific analysis of Milk Thistle shows that it contains a flavonoid complex called silymarin, which is largely responsible for the medical benefits of this herb. Silymarin is a powerful anti-oxidant and can block the entrance of toxins into the liver and remove toxins at cellular level, thereby resulting in regeneration of liver cells and improved liver functioning. This would have a direct impact on the overall systemic health of your pet as the liver is one of the most important organs in the body.
- Uncaria tormentosa (Cat's Claw): This South American plant has been used by the natives of Peru hundreds of years. Cat's Claw boasts many medicinal benefits, among them its anti-tumor properties, making it well known as a cancer preventative.
A good source of information and herbal remedies is PetAlive for Prevention and Treatment of Cancer in Dogs.
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