Bladder tumours in dogs, whilst uncommon, tend to be aggressive, so it’s important to be aware of the signs.
Bladder tumours are most common in dogs six years and older.
Some breeds are more prone to bladder tumours, particularly Scottish Terriers but also West Highland White Terriers, Beagles and Shetland Sheepdogs.
The symptoms of bladder tumours include straining, frequent urination and blood in the urine.
Bladder tumours are often very aggressive and unfortunately the long-term outlook tends to be fairly poor.
What causes bladder tumours?
The exact cause of bladder tumours, as with most tumours, is unknown. There are some factors known to increase the risk; such as obesity, long term and repeated bladder infections, and exposure to some chemicals.
The most common bladder tumour in dogs is a 'Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC)'. This is a highly aggressive form of cancer which affects the cells lining the inside of the bladder. Unfortunately, it tends to spread to other parts of the body fairly quickly.
What are the symptoms of bladder tumours?
The symptoms are similar to urinary tract infections and include:
Straining to pass urine
Blood in the urine
Pain when peeing
Repeated urine infections
Straining to urinate but not actually passing anything is an emergency and so you should call your vet straight away.
In later stages of bladder tumours symptoms can progress to include lethargy, being off their food and weight loss.
How are bladder tumours in dogs diagnosed?
Your vet may suspect a tumour if your dog is suffering with recurring urine infections, especially in older dogs. Sometimes they may be able to feel an abnormality on physical exam.
To diagnose a bladder tumour, your vet would take a urine sample and perform an ultrasound scan of the bladder. If they see a mass, they will want to take a sample of it (a biopsy) to confirm what it is.
Your vet will also run some bloods and may perform an ultrasound or x-rays of other areas of the body, so they can determine the extent of the disease.
How are bladder tumours treated?
A treatment is aimed at improving quality of life for a period of time to ensure your dog is not uncomfortable or in pain.
Antibiotics are often prescribed, since dogs with bladder tumours usually have a urine infection too.
There are some anti-inflammatory drugs that can really help relieve the symptoms, either alone or combined with chemotherapy. Sadly, normal chemotherapy doesn’t tend to be very effective for these tumours. However, injecting directly into the tumour' blood supply can be more effective.
It is not normally possible to surgically remove the tumour, as they tend to sit around some very important structures. Sometimes surgery can be used to reduce the size of the tumour.
The type of radiotherapy available in the UK is not currently effective against bladder tumours, so is not recommended.
What is the outlook for bladder tumours?
Unfortunately, the long-term outlook for dogs with bladder tumours is poor. Without treatment, patients tend to survive up to 6 months. With treatment, quality of life can be significantly improved, and survival time can increase up to around 12 months.
If you have a dog with bladder tumours, our vets are on hand to discuss your concerns and to help you devise a plan to ensure your dog has a good quality of life.