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?
Brain tumor in dogs
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.
What is the progression timeline of a canine brain tumor?
Early stages of a brain tumor may be as simple as your dog seeming to tire quicker than normal during walks or sleeping longer.
Other symptoms may include changes in behavior, change in appetite and panting. As the cancer progresses, other symptoms will begin to emerge, such as head tilting, poor coordination and circling or disorientation.
Later stages of a brain tumor will cause more serious symptoms like seizures, loss of vision and nystagmus (rapid eye movement).
End stages of a brain tumor usually involve daily seizures, head pressing, sudden behavioral changes like fear or aggression, increased weight loss and disorientation.
How long can a dog live with a brain tumor without treatment?
Brain tumors typically advance quickly, so the prognosis is poor. Without treatment, the average life expectancy for a dog with a brain tumor is 6 months. Even with treatment, this may only be extended by 8-12 months.
Most treatment for brain tumors is geared towards managing symptoms and keeping the dog comfortable, so they are not suffering.
Dog brain tumor when to euthanize
It may be time to consider euthanizing your dog with a brain tumor when they are 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.
How can I help my dog with a brain tumor?
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.
FAQs on canine brain tumor
What causes brain tumors in dogs?
The most common cause of brain tumors seems to be genetic, other possible causes of brain tumors include a poor diet, viral infection, environmental causes, and physical trauma.
Certain breeds are more likely to suffer brain tumors:
- Golden retriever
- Old English sheepdog
- French bulldogs
Is panting a sign of brain tumor in dogs?
Excessive panting is a common symptom associated with brain tumors. The simple reason is that the dog is experiencing pain and panting can help to alleviate some of the discomforts.
Depending on where the cancer has spread, the dog may also be having difficulty breathing. Drooling may also occur in addition to excessive panting.
What does prednisone do for dogs with cancer?
Prednisone is a corticosteroid – an anti-inflammatory steroid medication – that is used to treat pain and swelling. It works by mimicking natural hormones produced by the dog’s immune system.
Prednisone is used to prevent the body’s inflammatory response and to reduce the reactivity of the immune system, which can make the symptoms of cancer worse.
This medication is most commonly used in conjunction with surgery or chemotherapy, but it is also used as part of the end stage care when there are no further treatment options to explore.
As well as easing the symptoms of cancer, prednisone can also increase a dog’s appetite. This helps to reduce weight loss caused by the brain tumor and keep the dog fitter for longer.
Perhaps most importantly, prednisone can help to slow the spread of the cancer to other areas of the body. This is known as metastasis. The immune system can overreact, allowing cancer cells to travel from the brain to other organs.
Prednisone inhibits the immune system, making metastasis less likely. Additionally, this medication can help to stimulate red blood cell production and reduce anemia.