Canine bladder cancer can be difficult to diagnose and there are often not any early warning signs. This means by the time your dog is diagnosed, the disease may already have progressed to the late stage. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and your dog may have some good days. So, when should you euthanize a dog with bladder cancer?
Dog bladder cancer when to euthanize
If your dog is exhibiting ‘crisis symptoms’ such as breathing difficulties and seizures, you should seek veterinary help immediately. At this point, management of your dog’s symptoms may not be enough to keep them comfortable and your vet may recommend euthanizing your dog as the kindest option.
Treating bladder cancer in dogs can be expensive. It will cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to treat your dog. In fact, treating it can also cause more complications and side effects than the actual cancer itself. If your dog’s case is particularly severe, it might only have a few months left to live without treatment.
The question then becomes: Is it worth paying all that money for only a few months of life? As an owner, you must get emotionally prepared for the worst-case scenario: that the dog might die during treatment or shortly after treatment even if it starts off well. The prognosis is not good in most cases. Only one-third of dogs live longer than one year with this form of cancer.
You also need to consider that there are risks involved in chemotherapy treatments for dogs as well as there being side effects from radiation treatments.
Is bladder cancer in dogs painful?
Sadly, it’s one of the most painful forms of cancer, and it involves the bladder, which is a very sensitive area for a dog. We all hope for a good quality of life for our canine companions, but sometimes cancer pain can make the quality of life go out the window.
What is the life expectancy of a dog with bladder cancer?
Dogs who receive treatment will live for about 6-12 months. Those who do not receive treatment usually survive for about 4-6 months.
The stage, or aggressiveness, of the cancer will determine whether it is treatable. Dogs can live with bladder cancer for months to years. In the end, however, the long-term prognosis is not very good.
If your dog’s cancer was caught early enough and it hasn’t spread to any other organs, he may have a better prognosis than a similar dog whose cancer was discovered later after having had more time to spread through his body.
I’d advise you to seek treatment options that offer your dog the best chance of survival based on these factors but also what you and your family are able to do within your own financial capabilities. Remember that surgery and chemotherapy are very expensive procedures and, as such, can be difficult for pet owners to afford.
How can I help my dog with bladder cancer?
If tumors are small and localized, surgery may be a viable option, but you should also consider your dog’s age and overall health as anesthesia can be risky for elderly or immune-compromised dogs.
Chemotherapy is also an option to target the cancer cells and hopefully slow the progression of the disease. Dogs may experience side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, and lethargy or weakness.
Depending on the location of the tumors and how far they have spread, radiation may be an option. Radiation can cause damage to the healthy tissue surrounding cancerous tumors, so doses tend to be low and frequent.
Your veterinarian will likely also prescribe anti-inflammatories to reduce any swelling and opioid drugs to relieve pain. In late-stage cases, palliative care may be the only option; this includes therapies and medication to control your dog’s symptoms but does not treat the cancer.
Urethral stenting may also be possible; this is a procedure to open the urethra and allow better passage of urine to make your dog more comfortable.
You should closely monitor your dog’s food and water intake each day, how frequently they urinate and how much interest they are showing in normal family life.
If the cancer progresses to block the urinary tract, euthanasia is the best option to prevent your dog from suffering any more pain. Likewise, if your dog appears to be avoiding normal activities, sleeping a lot, or generally appearing depressed, it is time to say goodbye and allow him to pass without any pain.
Piroxicam for dogs with bladder tumor
Piroxicam has been shown to be effective in some cases of bladder cancer, either alone or in combination with other chemotherapy. In one study on 76 dogs with TCC treated with piroxicam, the tumor went into complete remission in two dogs, decreased in size by > 50 percent in 14 dogs (“partial remission), remained “stable” in size (<50 percent change) in 45 dogs, and increased in size by > 50 percent in 15 dogs.
What to feed a dog with bladder cancer
As a dog’s cancer progresses, they often become more fatigued and less interested in eating.
You can try to mitigate these side effects by offering a diet full of easy-to-digest fatty proteins like chicken, turkey, pork, fish and eggs. You can also try adding warm broth or meat juices to the food to increase its smell and flavor.
You can also try giving your dog treats or baby food if they are not able to eat their regular food.
For dogs with extreme loss of appetite, small frequent feedings can help them eat more without feeling overwhelmed. If your pet is having trouble eating, you may want to consider using a syringe or tube feeding method to get the food into their body.
Many veterinarians recommend a homemade diet for dogs with cancer because it is easier to digest, higher in protein and nutrient-dense. If you decide to go this route, make sure your pet has a balanced diet by consulting with your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist.
How do you know if a dog has bladder cancer?
Bladder cancer is typically separated into early and late stages depending on how far the cancer has spread and how severe your dog’s symptoms are.
- Difficulty urinating
- Blood in the urine
- Redness or swelling around the penis or vulva
- Frequent licking of the penis or vulva
- Lack of appetite.
As the disease progresses, your dog may experience a change in symptoms such as more frequent urination and incontinence.
- Increase in frequency of early stage symptoms
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty sitting
- Skin irritation due to frequent urination
- Pacing or restlessness
- Avoidance of exercise
- Breathing difficulties
- Whining due to pain
Financial assistance for dogs with bladder cancer
The cost of caring for a dog with bladder cancer can be overwhelming. Medication, expensive tests, and follow-up care can quickly add up to thousands of dollars. There are some organizations that are willing to help you out financially.
The FACE Foundation for Animals
The FACE Foundation for Animals focuses on dogs with bladder cancer and those that need lifesaving surgeries. They also can help with emergency veterinary care.
If you have a dog who needs chemotherapy or surgery, you can contact the FACE Foundation for Animals to see if you qualify, but they have strict guidelines in place. They won’t just give money to anyone who asks and you’ll need to provide your vet with information about the cost of care before being considered for assistance.
Veterinary Care Charitable Fund (VCCF)
VCCF provides financial assistance to pet owners who have difficulty paying for the cost of veterinary care. Veterinary care is defined as pet health care issues resulting from disease, illness or injury that is required to maintain or improve the quality of life for a pet.
The VCCF takes applications on an ongoing basis and will generally approve owners within 48 hours of receiving their applications. The organization pays vets directly and can typically cover up to $500 in medical care per applicant per year.
Magic Bullet Fund
The Magic Bullet Fund is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial assistance for canine cancer treatment. The Magic Bullet provides short-term financial aid to families that cannot afford the full cost of their dog’s cancer treatment.
Applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, but the organization will only help with treatment costs and not routine exams, vaccinations or spaying/neutering.
Brown Dog Foundation
Brown Dog Foundation provides one-time financial assistance to families in order to prevent immediate euthanasia or suffering when pet owners are faced with a treatable but financially devastating illness or injury in their companion animal. The Brown Dog Foundation offers financial aid to lower-income families and those who are facing economic hardship due to illness or job loss. The Brown Dog Foundation will review all applications and decide whether the applicant meets their criteria for assistance.
RedRover is one such organization that works to prevent cruelty to animals, including animal abuse and neglect, by providing grants for veterinary care. They also provide funding for spay/neuter surgeries, public education on responsible pet ownership, and emergency relief services. Their website has a directory of organizations that can help you find resources for financial assistance for your pet when you need it.
The Mosby Foundation
The Mosby Foundation is another organization that provides financial assistance to people who are struggling financially and can no longer afford their pets’ medication or surgery. The Mosby Foundation will even cover the cost of euthanasia for pets whose owners are unable to afford it. Call 540-885-2260 for more information on how to apply for help from this foundation.
Care Credit is a credit card specifically for veterinary bills. They offer no-interest and low-interest payment options that allow you to pay bills over time. Not every vet accepts Care Credit, but they do work with many veterinary hospitals across the country. Visit their website to find out which vets accept Care Credit in your area.
This service allows you to finance your veterinary care over six months with no interest and no credit check. The application process is very easy and only takes a few minutes. You can apply online or by phone. You will receive an answer immediately after submitting the application, so there is no need to wait until the next business day. VetBilling is available at more than 2,500 private practices nationwide — ask your veterinarian if they accept this payment option.
Crowdfunding has become much more popular in recent years, and it can be an excellent way to raise money for a particular purpose or project. In this case, you can use crowdfunding to help pay for your pet’s medical expenses. Sites like GoFundMe allow anyone to create a fundraising campaign with very little setup time or cost. Once your campaign is live online, you can share it with friends and family on social media or by email.
Conclusion of euthanizing a dog with bladder cancer
Bladder cancer can be difficult to detect in its early stages, and it is usually not found until it has begun to spread to other areas of the body. There are a number of tests that can confirm that a dog has bladder cancer and then determine how far the cancer has spread. These tests include urinalysis, radiographs, and ultrasound. If the cancer is caught early on, treatment may be possible; however, if the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body, euthanasia may be necessary.
The following is a summary of the euthanasia decision-making process:
- If your dog is in pain, consider euthanasia.
- If your dog is dehydrated or cannot drink/eat, consider euthanasia.
- If your dog is bleeding uncontrollably, consider euthanasia.
- If your dog’s condition is worsening rapidly (e.g., incontinence, muscle wasting, weakness), consider euthanasia.
- If you’re tired of dealing with it and you don’t want to spend money on treatment or medication, consider euthanasia.
In the end, it’s about the quality of life for your dog. As long as your dog can still find joy in life and has a high quality of life, then it is not time to consider euthanasia. But when those things start to fade away and his quality of life begins to decline noticeably, it may be time to consider ending his suffering.