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Dog Bladder Cancer: Symptoms and Treatments

Posted: 05/23/2023 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Dog , Health problems , Pet care

Watching our dogs age can often be a sad and scary experience. Senior dogs may develop a variety of health conditions and some of these, like cancer, can be quite serious. Dog bladder cancer is an aggressive form of cancer that can quickly spread to other parts of the dog’s body. The disease is more common in females and usually strikes in dogs aged 10 and older. While dog bladder cancer is not curable, there are multiple options for treating the disease.

Dog Bladder Cancer

Which Dog Breeds are More at Risk?

Any breed can develop bladder cancer but there are certain breeds that appear to have a genetic predisposition to it. Scottish Terriers are at the top of the list, but Shetland sheepdogs, beagles, West Highland terriers and wire hair fox terriers also have an increased risk for developing bladder cancer. And again, middle-aged female dogs seem to be the most at risk.

Causes of Dog Bladder Cancer

In addition to having a genetic predisposition to the disease, there seems to be a direct link between this type of cancer and a chronic exposure to common lawn care chemicals like herbicides and pesticides. If you currently treat your lawn with toxic chemicals, you may want to look into switching to a safer, greener option.

Signs of Bladder Cancer in Dogs

Detecting bladder cancer in dogs can be challenging because the symptoms often mimic those of urinary tract conditions. Dogs with this type of cancer may present with bladder stones or infections. They may urinate small amounts more frequently, have trouble urinating and have accidents in the house.

Dogs with bladder cancer often will have discolored or bloody urine. In the later stages of the disease, as it spreads to other parts of the body, the dog may begin to experience lameness.

If your sweet pup is experiencing any of the listed symptoms, be sure to schedule an appointment with your vet right away. 

Dog Bladder Cancer

Treatment Options for Dog Bladder Cancer

When it comes to treating bladder cancer, there are a variety of options. The course of treatment will depend on how early the disease was caught, if it has begun to spread, the age of the dog and if they have any other health conditions they are dealing with.

The following are some of the most common treatments your vet may recommend:


If the cancer is located in the area of the bladder that points toward the abdominal wall, then there is a chance surgery could remove the mass. The outcomes from surgery can differ. If the surgeons were able to remove all of the cancer cells, the prognosis can be good. However, even when all cancer cells have been removed, tumors can recur or metastasize.


If it is determined that the tumor is located in an area where it cannot easily be removed, or if your dog does not make a good surgery candidate, chemotherapy is another treatment option. The chemo may be given either in pill form or intravenously. 

If you and your vet decide chemo is the right course of treatment, your dog may be required to visit the hospital once a week for three to four weeks. Depending on the specific protocol, chemotherapy has a 40% to 70% chance of shrinking the tumor or slowing the growth. 


Stereotactic Radiation is a relatively new form of treatment for dog bladder cancer. Typically only one to three treatments are needed. The good news is radiation comes with fewer side effects than chemotherapy and veterinary oncologists are seeing really good results.

Drug Treatment

Another treatment option is the use of cancer therapy drugs. There are a variety commonly used, but one of the most common and effective is a drug called piroxicam. This is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) known by the brand name Feldene that has anti-cancer properties specifically against carcinoma in the bladder. In order to take piroxicam, your dog’s kidneys must be functioning well. Since bladder cancer can often negatively impact kidney function, your vet will need to periodically draw blood to check your pup’s kidney enzymes and function. 

There are other non-steroidal drugs that are used to fight cancer in dogs. One is called Rimadyl (Carprofen). Your vet will take into consideration a variety of factors to determine which drug treatment will be the safest and most effective for your fur baby.

No Treatment

While it may not seem like it upon first getting the diagnosis, sometimes not pursuing any treatment is the best course of action. Many senior dogs, who are not in very good health in general, have a hard time dealing with multiple vet visits and blood draws and horrible side effects of chemo. In these cases, the most loving thing you can do is to simply support her, love her and manage any pain she has.

Final Thoughts

Dog bladder cancer can develop in any dog, but there are specific breeds of dog that are more prone. Females aged 10 and older seem to be particularly susceptible to the disease. Depending on how soon bladder cancer is detected, there are varying treatment options available. If your dog is showing any signs, be sure to bring her in to see your vet for diagnosis.

Pet Insurance Can Offset the Cost of Cancer Treatments

It can be devastating to get the news that your fur baby is very sick. What can make an already difficult situation worse is not having the financial means to provide your pup with the very best life-extending care.

A pet insurance plan can help you to comfortably afford cancer treatments so you can spend even more time with your precious dog. Take just a couple of moments to get a free quote from some of the top providers in the country.

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  1. “Bladder Cancer in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment and Life Expectancy”
  2. “Why Is Bladder Cancer More Likely in These Breeds?”
  3. Caswell M. Transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder in a 14-year-old dog. Can Vet J. 2011 Jun;52(6):673-5. PMID: 22131588; PMCID: PMC3095172.

The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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