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  • Writer's pictureVetMed Team

Bladder Cancer in Dogs: What's the Prognosis?

Bladder cancer is a serious health concern for dogs. It can affect dogs of any age, breed, or gender, and it is important for pet owners to be aware of the signs, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options associated with this condition. In this article, we will explore the various aspects of bladder cancer in dogs, aiming to provide a comprehensive understanding of this disease.

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What is Bladder Cancer?

Bladder cancer, also known as transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), is a malignant tumor that develops in the urinary bladder of dogs. The tumor typically arises from the transitional cells that line the inner surface of the bladder. Bladder cancer can be invasive, spreading to nearby tissues or organs, and it may also metastasize to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, lungs, or bones.

What Causes Bladder Cancer in Dogs?

The exact cause of bladder cancer in dogs is not fully understood. However, certain risk factors have been identified. Exposure to environmental toxins, such as certain herbicides and pesticides, has been linked to an increased risk of developing bladder cancer. Moreover, certain breeds, such as Scottish Terriers, Shetland Sheepdogs, West Highland White Terriers, and Beagles, have a higher predisposition to developing bladder cancer, suggesting a genetic component.

Types of Bladder Cancer

There are different types of bladder cancer that can affect dogs. The most common type is transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), which accounts for the majority of cases. Other less common types include squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Each type may exhibit varying characteristics, aggressiveness, and response to treatment.

What Are the Symptoms of Bladder Cancer in Dogs?

Recognizing the symptoms of bladder cancer is crucial for early detection and prompt treatment. Common signs of bladder cancer in dogs include:

  • Blood in the urine (hematuria): One of the most noticeable signs, blood in the urine can range from pinkish discoloration to a deep red color.

  • Increased frequency of urination: Dogs with bladder cancer may need to urinate more frequently than usual.

  • Difficulty or straining during urination: Bladder cancer can cause discomfort and difficulty during urination, leading to straining or visible signs of effort.

  • Urinary accidents or incontinence: Dogs may have accidents indoors or experience urinary incontinence due to bladder cancer affecting normal bladder control.

  • Pain or discomfort during urination: Bladder cancer can cause pain or discomfort, leading to changes in behavior or vocalization during urination.

It is important to note that these symptoms can also be associated with other urinary tract issues, so it is essential to consult a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis.

How Quickly Can Bladder Cancer Form and Progress?

The rate at which bladder cancer forms and progresses can vary among dogs. Typically, bladder cancer spreads within a matter of months and the life expectancy is not much longer than that.

How Bladder Cancer is Diagnosed in Dogs

Diagnosing bladder cancer in dogs requires a thorough veterinary evaluation. The diagnostic process may involve the following:

Physical Examination

The veterinarian will perform a comprehensive physical examination of your dog, looking for any visible abnormalities or signs of discomfort.


A urinalysis helps evaluate the urine for the presence of blood, infection, or other abnormalities. If blood is found in the urine, further investigation is warranted.

Imaging Studies

X-rays or ultrasound imaging can provide a detailed view of the urinary tract, allowing the veterinarian to identify any abnormalities, such as tumors or changes in bladder structure.


Cystoscopy involves the use of a thin tube with a camera (endoscope) to visualize the inside of the bladder. This procedure allows direct visualization of the bladder lining and any suspicious areas that may require biopsy.


If abnormalities are detected during cystoscopy or imaging studies, the veterinarian may perform a biopsy. A small sample of tissue is collected from the bladder for microscopic examination, providing a definitive diagnosis.

Treatment Options For Dogs With Bladder Cancer

The treatment options for bladder cancer in dogs depend on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, as well as the overall health and age of the dog. Treatment options may include:

Endoscopic Resection

An endoscopic resection is used to treat dogs diagnosed with bladder or urethral cancer. Through the use of an endoscope (a thin tube with a tiny camera) obstructing bladder and urethral tumors can be removed to allow your dog to urinate more freely while other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy can be given. Contact us today to get a custom quote on this procedure!


Chemotherapy drugs may be used to help shrink the tumor, prevent its spread, or alleviate symptoms. Chemotherapy can be administered orally or intravenously, depending on the specific protocol recommended by the veterinarian. Contact us today to get a custom quote on this procedure!

Radiation Therapy (HDR Brachytherapy)

Radiation can be very effective for the management of bladder and urethral cancer. We use high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy also referred to as internal radiation therapy. The source of radiation (that which emits the radiation) is placed into the urethra and bladder through a urinary catheter. Contact us today to get a custom quote on this procedure!


Immunotherapy aims to stimulate the dog's immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. This treatment modality may be used alone or in combination with other therapies.

Palliative Care

In cases where the cancer has advanced and a cure is not possible, palliative care focuses on providing relief from pain and improving the dog's quality of life. Pain management medications, dietary adjustments, and supportive care measures can be implemented.

It is essential to discuss the available treatment options with your veterinarian to determine the most suitable course of action for your dog. Each case is unique, and the treatment plan should be tailored to meet the specific needs of your dog.

What is the Prognosis for Dogs with Bladder Cancer?

The prognosis for dogs with bladder cancer can vary depending on several factors, including the type of cancer, the stage at diagnosis, the response to treatment, and the overall health of the dog. Bladder cancer in dogs is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, which can affect the prognosis. However, with advancements in treatment options and supportive care, many dogs can experience an improved quality of life.

For dogs with localized bladder cancer that has not spread to other areas, such as nearby organs or distant sites, the prognosis may be more favorable, which is, on average, 6-12 months. Removal of the tumor, sometimes accompanied by additional treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy, can help control the disease and improve survival rates. However, it is important to note that bladder cancer can have a high recurrence rate, requiring close monitoring and potential additional interventions.

In cases where the cancer has spread or metastasized, the prognosis may be less optimistic, such as 4-6 months. However, treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or immunotherapy can still be used to manage the disease, alleviate symptoms, and provide palliative care to improve the dog's quality of life.

The CADET Braf Test

One diagnostic tool that has emerged in recent years for dogs with bladder cancer is the CADET Braf Test. This test is designed to detect a specific mutation in the Braf gene that is commonly found in transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), the most prevalent type of bladder cancer in dogs. The CADET Braf Test can aid in confirming a diagnosis of TCC and can be particularly useful when other diagnostic methods, such as biopsy, are inconclusive.

The test involves a non-invasive urine sample collection from the dog. The sample is then sent to a laboratory where the presence of the Braf mutation is analyzed. The CADET Braf Test can provide valuable information for veterinarians, assisting in the accurate diagnosis of bladder cancer and guiding treatment decisions.

VetMed Treats Bladder Cancer in Dogs

If you suspect that your dog may be showing signs of bladder cancer or if you have any concerns about their urinary health, contact us today! Prompt veterinary attention can make a significant difference in the diagnosis and treatment of bladder cancer.


Questions You've Asked Us About Bladder Cancer in Dogs

Still have questions? Contact us here - we promise we'll answer them.

What are the first signs of bladder cancer in dogs?

The first signs of bladder cancer in dogs may include blood in the urine (hematuria), increased frequency of urination, difficulty or straining during urination, and urinary accidents or incontinence.

What are the symptoms of late stage bladder cancer in dogs?

Are dogs in pain with bladder cancer?

Is bladder cancer in dogs terminal?

What breeds of dogs get bladder cancer?


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