Dog Bladder Cancer - When To Euthanise? - Cloud 9 Vets

Dog Bladder Cancer – When To Euthanise


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Dog with Bladder Cancer

There are two types of bladder cancer in dogs – TCC – transitional cell carcinoma. And UC – urothelial cancer. Both of these tumours begin in the urinary tract, but can spread to other parts of the body such as the liver, kidney, spleen, and bones.

More than 50,000 dogs a year are infected, with certain breeds having a higher chance of developing the disease. Genetics and environmental factors can increase the risk. And deaths from bladder cancer are increasing rapidly.

Learn more about dog bladder cancer – when to euthanise here…

Reasons for Bladder Cancer

What causes bladder cancer? This can depend on many factors with the most likely culprits being exposure to insecticides, herbicides, and obesity. There may also be a link between bacterial infections that affect the cell lining of the urinary tract causing future cancerous mutations. And certain breeds appear to be more susceptible.

Breeds Primarily Affected

Highest risk breeds for bladder cancer include:

  • American Eskimo Dogs
  • Australian Cattle Dogs
  • Australian Shepherds
  • Beagles
  • Border Collies
  • Bichon Frise
  • Rat and Russell Terriers
  • Scottish Terriers
  • Shetland Sheepdogs
  • Wire Fox Terriers

Apart from limiting the exposure to insecticides and herbicides, there’s not much that can be done in the way of prevention. A dietary plan including the addition of safe vegetables has been shown to reduce the risk in some cases.

Keeping a maintained weight, a good dental routine, with suitable amounts of exercise, alongside regular visits to the vet may help catch problems early. A recently available CADET Braf test – detecting a specific gene mutation linked with bladder cancers – is recommended for at-risk breeds as they reach six years with a history of bloody urine, or otherwise at eight years of age.

Dog with Bladder Cancer

Bladder Cancer Signs

Early signs of bladder cancer symptoms may be presented as:

  • A lack of appetite
  • Frequent urination
  • Licking the vulva or penis
  • Swelling and redness in those areas
  • Bloody urine

Signs of bladder cancer in the later stages include an increase of the above alongside:

  • Vomiting and further weight loss
  • Anorexia
  • A painful abdomen with possible constipation
  • Sitting and walking issues
  • Inability to exercise
  • Behavioural changes
  • Constant pacing

You need to contact your vet immediately if your dog has:

  • Uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Internal or external bleeding that is profuse
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Prolonged seizures
  • A sudden collapse

Bladder Tumours

Bladder tumour symptoms are also very similar to urinary tract infections. These include:

  • Urination of small, frequent amounts
  • Pain when urinating
  • Bloody urine
  • Incontinence

The spread of a bladder tumour can cause bone pain and lameness. And if the bladder tumour invades the urethra it can cause straining which may lead to kidney damage and potential kidney failure.

Dog with Bladder Cancer


A biopsy sample can be taken surgically with a rigid or flexible tube that’s passed through the urethra. By using this method pictures of the tissue can be obtained – and small samples of tissue taken. The biopsy will be sent to a pathologist for expert analysis.

Urinalysis will check for secondary infections of the bladder caused by the tumour – and will determine the health of the kidneys. Bloodwork will help evaluate the overall health and support treatment options.

X-rays will confirm any spread of tumour to the bones – and ultrasounds will confirm the bladder tumour. And be able to measure the size of the tumour within the bladder, and the urinary bladder lymph nodes. Chest radiographs will check for metastases in the lungs.

Rectal examinations often reveal thickening of the urethra wall, an enlargement or mass in the bladder, or a distended bladder.

Dog with Bladder Cancer


Treatment can be difficult and for most bladder cancers is palliative – aiming to prolong a good quality of life. Tumours are often very large and invasive. And recurrence is common. Complete surgery isn’t possible due to the location, but removal of part of the bladder may be recommended.

Radiation therapy has unfortunate side effects such as involuntary discharge of urine and inflammation of the bladder itself.

Piroxicam is a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug that when combined with chemotherapy can provide additional benefits in helping with symptoms and actual tumour shrinkage in some dogs. However, it can cause renal toxicity and interfere with renal blood flow and treatment needs to be closely monitored.

Piroxicam used alone has shown positive results. And may be recommended for lifetime medication. The course of treatment will be based on the size of the tumour, and the stage of the disease. If your dog goes into remission the treatment may be extended for another few weeks to ensure eradication of any microscopic traces. If cancer spreads the treatment will be stopped.

Dogs with bladder cancer often contract secondary infections so ongoing check-ups need to be carried out by your vet. Antibiotics will help reduce inflammation. And catheterisation may be recommended. Catheters may be kept in the urethra for several months. And feeding tubes might aid with achieving urinary diversion.

Dog with Bladder Cancer


Bladder cancer life expectancy has an average of more than six months. And in 20% of cases, this can be increased to more than a year. However, a poor prognosis is given for advanced metastasis and carcinoma of glands.

With adequate treatment and surgical intervention, an increase in survival time may happen. Chemotherapy may also add to this increase. Without treatment, the average life expectancy is four to six months.

Is bladder cancer painful? If the tumour blocks urine passage then a painful death is imminent within one to two days – in these extreme cases, you’ll need to discuss the best treatment for your dog with your vet.

Putting Your Dog to Sleep

You can arrange a consultation with your home-visit vet to discuss dog euthanasia at home. This may be the kindest answer you need to save your dog from further suffering. The process will be explained – and questions you have honestly answered.
When you’re ready your vet will give a calming sedative that sends your dog into a peaceful sleep. This will be followed by the administration of an anaesthetic agent that causes the heart to slow and gently stop. Your dog will be at peace without any more pain.

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