When your dog is diagnosed with a brain tumor, it can be a frightening and confusing time. There are lots of things for you to think about and plans you will need to make. Depending on the nature of the tumor and the symptoms your dog is experiencing, you may not have many options in terms of treatment. Choosing to put your dog to sleep is a decision no pet owner ever wants to make, but when is the right time to euthanize a dog with a brain tumor?
When to put down a dog with brain tumor
It may be time to consider euthanasia if your dog is in distress or pain even with pain medication or suffering frequent seizures. The most important thing is your dog’s quality of life. Treatment that could prolong their life may also prolong their suffering.
Brain tumors in dogs
Although their bodies are quite different from ours, dogs can develop many of the same cancers that humans do. Things include cancer of the brain. Although older dogs have a higher risk of having this disease, it can occur in younger dogs.
Unfortunately, symptoms of a brain tumor are also commonly seen in simple conditions like infections. This means that diagnosis may be delayed and the tumors will have progressed further.
Symptoms of brain cancer include:
- Loss of balance
- Loss of vision
- Changes in behavior
- Tilting the head (a sign of pain)
- Pain in the neck
Other signs may include weight loss, changes in eating and drinking habits or persistent cough. Since these symptoms are common to many different illnesses, it can be difficult to diagnose brain cancer early on.
Pain management is always the first step. Most likely, your veterinarian will prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to try and reduce swelling, along with opioids to control pain.
If the tumors are operable and can be fully removed, surgery is an option. There are always risks with surgical procedures so talk through the process with your vet.
In the case of brain cancer that has spread, surgery will not be suitable, but your vet may suggest chemotherapy. This treatment targets the cancer cells and can slow the progression of the disease. Some dogs may also see a reduction in tumor size following chemotherapy. As with any treatment, success is never guaranteed and chemotherapy is not a cure. It simply aims to slow the cancer’s growth and give your dog more time.
Radiation may be offered, however, there are drawbacks to this treatment. As well as attacking the cancer cells, radiation can also cause damage to healthy tissue. Small, regular doses are common with radiation treatment to try and prevent this.
For dogs whose cancer is advanced or if the owner chooses not to take offers of treatment, there is always palliative care. These therapies help to reduce any discomfort your dog may be experiencing so that they can pass as peacefully and comfortably as possible.