Understanding Bladder Cancer in Dogs

bladder cancer in dogs in annapolis, towson and columbia, md

Our canine companions are just as likely to get cancer as humans are, and bladder cancer is one such type. The tumor that affects the bladder is known as transitional cell carcinoma, or urothelial carcinoma. It’s the most common tumor diagnosed in the bladder, and is diagnosed in roughly 80,000 dogs every year. The breeds affected most by bladder cancer in dogs include Beagles, Scottish Terriers, Border Collies, and Shelties.

Common Clinical Signs

The most common signs indicating bladder cancer are:

  • Urine accidents in the house
  • Straining to urinate
  • Urinating more often
  • Blood in the urine
  • Urgency to urinate, but unable to produce much urine

Other health problems can cause these symptoms. However, with bladder cancer, the symptoms may be resolved for a short time with symptomatic therapy and then return not long after your pet has discontinued their treatment.

Diagnosing Bladder Cancer

  • CADET® BRAF – The first test we would choose for diagnosing transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) is the non-invasive CADET® BRAF test. ‘BRAF’ is the name for a gene that, in affected dogs, contains a single mutation indicating TCC. All we need to do is collect 30-40ml of your dog’s urine (over several days) and have it evaluated in a laboratory.
  • Cystoscopy – If the first option produces inconclusive results, we can try cystoscopy. A flexible scope is carefully inserted through the urethra and into the bladder while your pet is under anesthesia. We can then examine the urethra and bladder and take tissue samples for biopsy.
  • Urine cytology  – Urine cytology is a third option where we can examine cells that have been shed into the urine. We can make a correct diagnosis with this test about 30% of the time.
black dog sitting outside

Bladder Cancer Staging

Following a definitive diagnosis, we need to determine whether your pet’s cancer has spread into the lymph nodes, bones, and/or lungs. Therefore, before starting treatment, we need to perform:

  • Blood work and urine testing
  • An abdominal ultrasound to view the bladder, urethra, kidneys, regional lymph nodes, and abdominal cavity overall)
  • Chest X-rays and/or a CT scan to check for TCC within the lungs
  • A rectal exam to check for an enlarged prostate, lymph nodes, and urethra

Treatment Options for Pets

The goal of treatment is to slow cancer progression and improve your pet’s quality of life as much as possible. Available treatments include:

  • Piroxicam, an oral NSAID that decreases inflammation around tumors and helps to improve or resolve clinical signs. It has been found to have slowed tumor growth in approximately 18% of pets.
  • Chemotherapy, which can be used together with Piroxicam to treat TCC. Chemotherapy does not cause the same dramatic side effects in pets as it does in humans.
  • Radiation therapy is also a possible option and can be performed while your pet is under anesthesia.

We rarely recommend surgery due to its risks and the likelihood of cancer recurrence within a year of the procedure. To learn more, call us in Annapolis at (410) 224-0121, Towson at (410) 828-0911 or Columbia at (410) 441-3304.

Celebrating Success Stories at Our Animal Hospital

Our veterinarian specialists in Annapolis are passionate about the work they do to extend and save lives, and we’re extremely proud of the successes that have come and gone through our front doors. Today, we would like to focus on a few memorable patients that we’ve had the privilege of getting to know during their cancer treatment.

Pet Success Stories in Annapolis: Rocco

Rocco was treated at CVSS and Atlantic Veterinary Internal Medicine & Oncology, and just recently graduated from treatment for mast cell tumors.

Pet Success Stories in Annapolis: Delsey

Delsey is a 7-year old Mastiff who had her last treatment for osteosarcoma on March 14.

Pet Success Stories in Annapolis: Thais

Thais is 10 years young and such a sweetie! She recently celebrated the 1-year anniversary for her thyroid carcinoma diagnosis and is cancer-free!

Pet Success Stories in Annapolis: Zena

Zena just graduated from her osteosarcoma treatment (she was too cool to wear her graduation cap).

Mast Cell Tumors

Mast cell tumors (MCT) are quite common in dogs. While they generally appear on the skin, mast cell tumors can also affect other parts of the body, such as the liver, spleen, bone marrow, and GI tract. The tumors can also appear anywhere on the body.

Treatment options for MCT include chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy. It truly depends on the condition of the pet and how far their condition has progressed. Early detection and treatment is the best chance for success.


Bone cancer is a condition most often found in larger breeds, though virtually any breed of dog can be affected. Bone cancer metastasizes quickly and is very aggressive, making an early diagnosis and treatment essential. A common sign of bone cancer in dogs is lameness, which may either develop slowly or suddenly.

Possible treatment options may include amputation or limb-sparing surgery and chemotherapy.

Thyroid Carcinoma

Thyroid carcinoma or thyroid cancer is affects the thyroid glands. Malignant tumors may spread to other organs in the body, and are more common in dogs than cats. A dog with thyroid cancer may not have any obvious clinical symptoms, but they may have a lump or mass on their neck. Masses on the thyroid glands may be surgically removed if possible, or they can be treated with chemotherapy or radiation.

Treating an Arthritic Patient with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

Tully is a 9-year old Labrador Retriever and our first official hyperbaric oxygen therapy patient. He is also the “best bud” of Dr. Hitt, our AVIM&O Medical Director and the lead on introducing Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy to our facility in Annapolis. Tully was born with bilateral elbow dysplasia, a condition in which both elbows develop abnormally, resulting in pain and lameness. He underwent arthroscopic surgery for both elbows via CVSS, our surgery group, when he was just 7 months old. While these surgeries improved Tully’s comfort level for the next 7 years, progressive chronic osteoarthritis and hip dysplasia eventually began to set in.hyperbaric oxygen therapy in towson, columbia and annapolis, md

To reduce the discomfort associated with these conditions, Tully started receiving higher doses of gabapentin, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, and several supplements to increase mobility in his joints. Until just a couple of months ago, Tully seemed to be doing well. However, since December, he has required an increase in his medications in order to stay comfortable—even with reduced activity.

Thus, Tully was chosen to be the first patient in our new SeChrist HBOT unit. He has already spent two sequential, 1-hour treatments in the chamber and will now undergo treatment once a week, and then twice a month. After his first treatment, it appeared that Tully seemed more willing to run around with his housemate. Time will tell if HBOT is truly improving his situation, but we are hopeful.

HBOT has a variety of uses, helping patients that have experienced:

  • Smoke inhalation
  • Near drowning
  • Toxic snake or spider bites
  • Prolonged wound healing
  • Non-responding infections

There are other diseases that may also benefit from HBOT, but clinical evidence of these benefits is still unclear. We’re constantly learning and working to expand our skill set with HBOT, and we look forward to using it for the benefit of many future patients.