Bladder Cancer In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

bladder cancer in dogs
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Bladder cancer is the most common urinary tumor in dogs. Just like in humans, cancer can have adverse effects on dogs. Here, we’ll look at the causes and symptoms, as well as possible treatments for bladder cancer in dogs.  

Which Breed Of Dogs Are Prone To Bladder Cancer?

While bladder cancer can occur in any breed, a genetic predisposition is hypothesized because the disease affects Scotch Terriers significantly more than any other breed. Shetland sheepdogs, beagles, West Highland terriers, and wire-hair fox terriers appear to be at an elevated risk of acquiring bladder cancer. These breeds’ middle-aged and elderly female canines tend to be the most vulnerable.

Causes of Bladder Cancer in Dogs

Although the precise etiology of bladder cancer in dogs has not been determined, there appears to be a correlation between hereditary susceptibility and long-term exposure to common lawn care chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides.

How Can Bladder Cancer Develop?

Because transitional cell carcinomas are typically found around the bladder’s neck, urinary blockages are common when the tumor develops to the final stages. The tumor may block a ureter, preventing urine from the kidney from entering the bladder. Alternatively, the tumor may block the urethra, preventing the patient from urinating.

A urinary blockage can swiftly escalate into a life-threatening situation. If you suspect your dog is unable to urinate, please contact an emergency veterinarian at once.

In some circumstances, the tumor causes so much inflammation and discomfort that the patient’s quality of life suffers. 

Some people may also fall ill as a result of illness metastasis spread to other places of the body. TCC can spread to lymph nodes, the lungs, bone, and the prostate. Pain, breathing difficulties, and limb swelling may occur in the last stages of metastatic bladder cancer due to lymphatic channel blockage

Symptoms Of Bladder Cancer In Dogs

Bladder cancer symptoms can resemble those of other urinary tract disorders, such as stones or infections, making the disease difficult to identify. If your dog has bladder cancer, you may notice that he or she urinates infrequently, has difficulties urinating, or has accidents in the house.

Discolored or bloody urine, as well as chronic urinary tract infections that are resistant to therapy, are other common symptoms of bladder cancer.

Some dogs have lameness in the later stages of the disease as the condition spreads to other regions of the body, such as the dog’s lungs or bones.

Diagnosing Bladder Cancer In Dogs

As previously stated, urinary tract infections are far more prevalent than bladder tumors, and the symptoms are nearly identical. Unsurprisingly, a dog with a bladder tumor is frequently misdiagnosed as having a urinary tract infection (UTI).

To make matters worse, many dogs with bladder tumors will also have a urinary tract infection. When the vet finds blood, bacteria, and white blood cells in the urine, he or she will understandably first suspect a urinary tract infection rather than bladder cancer.

Many dogs with bladder tumors will improve initially on antibiotics, particularly if the tumor is tiny and in its early stages. The clinical improvement could be attributed to some antibiotics’ anti-inflammatory impact on the bladder. It could also be because some dogs have a concomitant UTI, which is contributing to the symptoms.

When an older female dog has recurring urinary difficulties that do not improve or return fast despite antibiotic therapy, the vet may suspect bladder cancer. In many circumstances, the veterinarian will be able to see a mass on ultrasonography. Nonetheless, the veterinarian must exercise caution when interpreting the ultrasonography. It is easy to confuse bladder wall inflammation for a tumor, especially if the bladder is small and relatively empty.


When a veterinarian discovers a tumor elsewhere in the body, he or she will almost always recommend an aspirate. This entails the veterinarian inserting a needle into the tumor, suctioning out some of the cells, and examining the cells under a microscope.

However, for suspected bladder cancer, veterinarians do not advocate this type of aspirate. There have been cases of “tumor sprouting” after an aspirate with TCC. In other words, tumor cells followed the needle’s path and began to develop throughout the abdomen. As a result, additional techniques of collecting samples for diagnostics are recommended.

Cystoscopic biopsy

Instead of doing an aspiration, the veterinarian can use a cystoscope to acquire a biopsy from the tumor. This is a unique scope with a camera that the veterinarian inserts into the urethra and bladder. A surgical biopsy, like aspiration, has the danger of spreading tumor cells throughout the abdomen, hence it is usually not recommended.

Traumatic catheterization

Finding neoplastic transitional cells in a urine sample is another valuable diagnostic technique, particularly if the sample is collected using “traumatic catheterization.” The procedure of traumatic catheterization is inserting a urinary catheter and purposefully injuring the bladder tissue and tumor. As a result, the tumor releases cells into the urine.

It is vital to highlight that the traumatic catheterization sample should be interpreted by a veterinary pathologist. This is due to the fact that prolonged inflammation of the bladder wall can harm cells and lead them to seem cancerous. A veterinary clinical pathologist who is board-certified should be able to tell the difference between malignancy and inflammation. Yet, most general practice veterinarians do not have that degree of cytology competence.


Recently, a new test became available that greatly simplifies the diagnosis of TCC for both the veterinarian and the patient. The test is known as the CADET® BRAF test. A genetic alteration known as the BRAF mutation is found in 85% of TCC tumors. The presence of cells with the BRAF mutation in a free-catch urine sample can confirm a TCC diagnosis. Unfortunately, because only 85% of TCC tumors have the BRAF mutation, it will not detect every incidence of TCC.

The good news is that a CADET BRAF-PLUS test is now available. It can detect almost two-thirds of the TCCs that the standard CADET BRAF test missed. The BRAF and BRAF-PLUS together can detect 95% of TCCs. Because the BRAF test is simple to administer, non-invasive and has a high likelihood of correctly detecting TCC, it is swiftly gaining popularity among veterinarians and dog owners.

What Are The Treatment Options For Bladder Cancer In Dogs?


Urinary bladder cancer in dogs is frequently treated without surgery. Surgery may be considered if a big tumor is located distant from the urethral opening. Because there is a considerable danger of cancer spreading to other parts of the body during surgery, it is not normally suggested as the sole treatment.


There are numerous chemotherapeutic treatments that can help if your dog has bladder cancer. Using various treatment methods over time often yields the best results.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)

In dogs, NSAIDs offer anti-tumor activity against certain types of bladder cancer. Piroxicam, for example, may be used alone or in combination with standard chemotherapy drugs to treat bladder cancer. Piroxicam has been demonstrated in studies to be beneficial in the treatment of bladder cancer, but other NSAIDs may also be effective.

Radiation treatment

Because of the lack of established efficacy and the risk of serious side effects such as chronic colitis, inflammation, rectal perforation, and strictures, radiation treatment is not routinely used to treat bladder cancer in dogs.

Prognosis Of Bladder Cancer In Dogs

The prognosis for bladder cancer in dogs varies based on the tumor’s location and the aggressiveness of the treatment. Due to the progression of symptoms, most dogs are terminated within a few months if no treatment is given. The median survival duration for bladder cancer in dogs with treatment ranges from 6 to 12 months.

Are Dogs In Pain With Bladder Cancer?

Dogs suffering from bladder cancer will be in pain and will have difficulties urinating. Depending on the stage of cancer, a blockage in the bladder may have formed, causing all bladder functions to cease.

How Aggressive Is Bladder Cancer In Dogs?

Because this cancer frequently spreads to other regions of the body, it is considered extremely aggressive. The cancer spreads to other regions of the body 50% of the time, including lymph nodes, lungs, liver, and even bones.

At What Age Do Dogs Get Bladder Cancer?

It usually affects dogs over the age of ten and is more common in females. Bladder cancer can affect any breed, although Scottish terriers and Shelties (Shetland sheepdogs) are more likely to be affected.

How Long Can A Dog Survive With Bladder Cancer?

Dogs with bladder cancer that do not receive treatment have a life expectancy of around 4-6 months, but dogs who do receive treatment have a life expectancy of about 6-12 months.

In Conclusion,

Bladder cancer in dogs is a dangerous disease that can be caused by a number of factors, including genetics and chemical exposure. Blood in the urine, increased frequency of urination, pain while peeing, and difficulty defecating are all symptoms. If you see any of these symptoms in your dog, you should immediately call your veterinarian for a diagnosis so that treatment can begin. If you have any additional questions concerning bladder cancer in dogs, please contact your veterinarian. 

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