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, how do you decide when to euthanize your dog suffering with bladder cancer?
Bladder cancer in dogs
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.
Early stage symptoms
- 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.
Lage stage symptoms
- 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
When to euthanize a dog with bladder cancer
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.
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.