If your dog was diagnosed with bladder cancer, you may be wondering what’s the dog bladder cancer life expectancy. Bladder cancer in dogs is a very invasive type of cancer and the life expectancy of a dog with this type of cancer will vary on several factors. One of the most important factors is how advanced the cancer is. As with other types of cancer, early detection and intervention is important and consulting with a veterinary oncologist is recommended so to better evaluate treatment options and prognosis.
Bladder Cancer Spreads
Dogs may be affected by different types of bladder cancer, but the most common type of cancer is what’s called transitional cell carcinoma (TCC).
This type of cancer doesn’t localize to the bladder but rather has a tendency to spread. The cancer may invade the dog’s urethra causing blockages that can disrupt the normal urine flow or even prevent the dog from urinating. Affected dogs therefore develop dysuria, (the medical term for painful and difficult urination) along with blood in the urine, frequent urination and incontinence. These symptoms are often confused for a dog’s urinary tract infection and may delay diagnosis.
Other than affecting the bladder, this cancer has a predisposition to spread to the local or regional lymph nodes and even vital organs such as the lungs. In some cases, this cancer can also spread to the bone, in which cases affected dogs may become lame.
Unfortunately, when it comes to life expectancy, because transitional cell carcinoma is often diagnosed when it is already quite advanced, treatment options may not grant too much time compared to other forms of cancer.
Bladder Cancer Treatment Options
Surgery to remove bladder cancer is an option but it depends on whether the tumor is operable. When the cancer is clearly defined and localized, surgical intervention is possible.
However, in most cases, bladder cancer treatment in dogs consists of chemotherapy, combining a chemo drug with a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (doxorubicin or mitoxantrone along with piroxicam, brand name Feldene to be exact) or radiation. Radiation therapy though is not without any side effects, with most side effects affecting causing significant urinary complications.
While these are treatment options, it’s important to consider that there is no cure for bladder cancer. While chemo can prolong life significantly in several other types of cancer, in bladder cancer it doesn’t work as well. However, treatment options can work to slow down the growth of cancer and increase survival times.
Dog Bladder Cancer Life Expectancy
Life expectancy of dog bladder cancer, as mentioned, depends on a variety of factors such as size, location etc. One important factor is how advanced the disease is.
Generally, survival times are longer for dogs without spread of the tumor (metastasis). It is estimated that, by the time this cancer is diagnosed, one out of six cases would have metastasized to the regional lymph nodes and the lungs.
The choice of treatment options can also be a factor and it is possible to obtain some rough estimates by looking at studies.
For instance, in dogs where surgery was an option, a partial cystectomy in a study revealed that nine out of ten dogs developed recurrence or metastasis, and half of the dogs had to be euthanized within seven months.
The median survival time for dogs on the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug piroxicam alone is about 6 months, explains veterinarian Dr. Demian Dressler.
Better results were attained when combining a chemotherapy drug with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, offering a median survival time of approximately nine to 11 months.
Sadly, once the cancer is so advanced that it blocks the passage of urine, affected dogs will be in considerable pain and will succumb to the disease within a day or two, explains veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Coates. Humane euthanasia at a certain point should therefore be considered to prevent a painful death from uremia or as a result of spread of the disease to other body parts.
- Dog Cancer Blog: How Long Does My Dog Have?
- Pet Education: Bladder Cancer in Dogs
- DVM360: An update on diagnosing and treating urinary bladder transitional cell carcinoma in dogs
- Stone EA, George TF, Gilson SD, et al. Partial cystectomy for urinary bladder neoplasia: surgical technique and outcome in 11 dogs. J Small Anim Pract 1996;37(10):480-485.
- DVM360: Clinical Rounds: Transitional cell carcinoma
- DVM360: Summary of selected medical therapy results reported for TCC in dogs that could be evaluated for response to therapy
- . Molnar T, Vajdovich P. Clinical factors determining the efficacy of urinary bladder tumour treatments in dogs: surgery, chemotherapy or both? Acta Vet Hung 2012;60(1):55-68