Brain tumours in dogs happen for no particular reason – what causes brain tumours is unknown. The disease is rare and the diagnosis can be overwhelming. Knowing the steps to take afterwards can help prepare for treatments, and understand the prognosis.
This article will explain the facts about a dog brain tumour – when to euthanise by answering the questions you need to know…
Abnormal cells and irregular cell division create a primary tumour within the brain itself. The tumours may also develop in the skull, the pituitary gland, the cranial nerves, and the brain envelopes known as meninges.
The specific cause has yet to be identified. However, potential reasons imply environmental and chemical toxins have detrimental effects. As do dietary factors, a weakened immune system, and genetic issues.
Breeds of dogs with short noses and flat faces such as Pugs and Bulldogs, and dogs with long heads and noses like Collies tend to be more prone to brain tumours. Other breeds that are more susceptible include Terriers, Golden Retrievers, and Dobermans.
Types of brain tumours are either primary or secondary. The primary tumour is where the cancer originated within the brain cells and membranes.
The most common of these primary tumours include:
Secondary brain tumours originate from cancer cells in other part of the body – spreading to the brain through metastasis. Or developing from a nearby non-nervous system tissue which spreads into the brain tissue such as cancer of the nasal cavity. When secondary brain tumours are diagnosed the cancer has spread throughout the body. Secondary brain tumours include hemangiosarcoma, mammary carcinoma and melanoma.
Brain tumours can grow rapidly and aggressively, so early diagnosis is essential to prevent your dog from dying. Dog brain tumour symptoms may initially appear as non-specific, meaning they’re not specific to brain tumours alone.
Signs of a brain tumour that you should be aware of are:
As the brain tumour develops brain cancer stages will bring increased clinical signs. Dog brain tumour final stages include all of the above signs continuing and progressing.
There are many tests that will be carried out beginning with a taken history, a physical examination, and blood work. Blood tests which incorporate a full blood count will determine any infection. Baseline bloodwork evaluate red and white cells and make sure organs such as the kidneys and liver are functioning properly.
A biopsy of any discovered mass will be taken to make a definite diagnosis. This will also let your vet know the malignancy of the brain tumour.
Dog brain tumour life expectancy varies due to the treatments available for the size and spread. These may significantly improve your dog’s quality of life as they reduce the symptoms and speed of dignosis.
Average life expectancy survival times may be:
In most cases emergency treatment is necessary – as the tumour grows it causes increased pressure on the brain causing neurological issues. Stopping seizures is a priority and specific treatments include the insertion of an intravenous catheter, administering anti-seizure medications, and nursing care to help decrease the swelling in the brain.
Other options consist of:
Radiation therapy and chemotherapy – used to shrink the tumour as much as possible – sometimes involving daily anaesthesia to help irradiate the brain location. This procedure would be carried out for five days a week. Three weeks in a row. And there are potential rare side effects damaging healthy brain tissue.
Brain surgery needs a general anaesthetic as the skullcap needs to be surgically removed. The tumour is then scooped out. this procedure is known as debulking and can only be performed by neurology specialists.
Medical management for giving steroids to help reduce brain swelling. The drugs used have side effects that may include increased appetite and thirst, as well as an increase in urination. This treatment normally only extends the lifespan of your dog by a couple of months.
It’s essential that dogs with brain tumours have regular check-ups for any signs of regrowth. Any weakened swallowing reflexes can cause the development of aspiration pneumonia. You’ll need to be acutely aware of any health changes – as your dog will have an altered immune system. Your vet will advise you of the need for further MRI’s and CT scans.
Putting your dog to sleep may sadly be the kindest option. Before you make that decision, you can speak to a care co-ordinator day or night. Your dog’s welfare will always be the ultimate priority. And the euthanasia process will be carried out without causing any distress or pain.
Your home visit vet will have professional training and qualifications. And years of experience helping dog owners in your situation. You’ll be guided through the process. The administering of two injections which gently send your dog to sleep, followed by the anaesthetic agent that causes the heart to stop.
Your dog will have been comfortable and warm, surrounded by the family he loves. And you’ll have all the time you need to say goodbye.