What Pet Parents Need To Know About Transitional Cell Carcinoma In Dogs

What Pet Parents Need To Know About Transitional Cell Carcinoma In Dogs 1

When it comes to our furry friends, we all want them to live happy, healthy lives. But like us, our dogs can develop various health issues, including cancer. One form of cancer that affects dogs is Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC). Here’s a closer look at what this condition is, its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

What is Transitional Cell Carcinoma in Dogs?

Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC) is a form of bladder cancer that commonly affects older dogs, particularly females. This aggressive cancer originates in the transitional epithelial cells lining the bladder and can also occur in the urethra, kidneys, or prostate. While it is treatable, early detection is crucial for a better prognosis.

Certain breeds like Scottish Terriers, Shetland Sheepdogs, and West Highland White Terriers have a higher predisposition to TCC. Symptoms often mimic those of a urinary tract infection, including frequent urination, blood in the urine, and discomfort while urinating.

Transitional Cell Carcinoma Symptoms in Dogs

The symptoms of Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC) in dogs can closely resemble those of a urinary tract infection, which sometimes makes early detection challenging. Here are some of the most common symptoms you should watch for:

  1. Frequent Urination: Dogs with TCC may feel the need to urinate more often than usual.
  2. Difficulty Urinating: You may notice your dog straining to urinate, or taking longer than usual to do so.
  3. Blood in the Urine: Hematuria, or blood in the urine, is a common sign of TCC and should be promptly investigated.
  4. Pain or Discomfort: Your dog may exhibit signs of pain or discomfort while urinating, such as crying out, whining, or trying to avoid the action altogether.
  5. Lethargy: As the disease progresses, it can sap your dog’s energy levels, making them less active or enthusiastic about exercise or play.
  6. Loss of Appetite: Dogs with TCC may become less interested in food or refuse to eat, leading to weight loss.

It’s crucial to consult your veterinarian as soon as you notice any of these symptoms, as early diagnosis and treatment can significantly affect your dog’s prognosis.

Diagnosing Transitional Cell Carcinoma in Dogs

Diagnosing Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC) in dogs involves a series of tests and imaging studies, usually conducted by a veterinarian. If you observe symptoms that could be indicative of TCC, such as frequent urination, blood in the urine, or discomfort while urinating, consult your vet as soon as possible for a comprehensive evaluation. Here are the common steps involved in diagnosing TCC:

  1. Complete Blood Count (CBC) and Biochemistry Profile: These tests can help rule out other conditions and give an overview of your dog’s general health.
  2. Urine Analysis: A urinalysis will be performed to check for infection, blood, or cancer cells in the urine.
  3. Urine Cytology: This involves examining a urine sample under a microscope to look for abnormal cells. However, this test isn’t always definitive.
  4. Ultrasound: An ultrasound of the abdomen focuses on the bladder and surrounding areas to identify any masses or abnormalities.
  5. X-rays: Chest and abdominal X-rays may be taken to check for metastasis, or spread of the cancer to other areas.
  6. Biopsy: A tissue sample from the bladder may be taken either through surgery or via a cystoscopy (a scope inserted into the bladder). This is usually the most definitive way to diagnose TCC.
  7. Additional Imaging: More advanced imaging like CT scans or MRIs may also be used for a more detailed view.
  8. Fine Needle Aspirate (FNA): This less invasive method uses a needle to collect cells from the tumor for examination, though it may not be as definitive as a biopsy.

Early and accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment and a better prognosis, so don’t delay a veterinary consultation if you suspect TCC in your dog.

Conventional Treatment of Transitional Cell Carcinoma

The treatment of Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC) in dogs often involves a multi-modal approach, combining various conventional treatment methods to manage the disease effectively. Here are some of the most common treatment options:

  1. Surgery: Surgical removal of the tumor is the most straightforward treatment, but it may not always be possible. Due to the location of TCC tumors—often at the junction of the bladder and urethra—complete surgical excision can be challenging.
  2. Chemotherapy: Medications like Mitoxantrone, Carboplatin, or Gemcitabine are commonly used to shrink the tumor size and reduce symptoms. Chemotherapy can be used alone or in conjunction with other treatments.
  3. Radiation Therapy: This involves using high-energy rays to target cancer cells. Radiation can be effective in shrinking the tumor, but it is typically used for palliative care or when surgery is not an option.
  4. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Medications like Piroxicam can sometimes help shrink the tumor and are often used alongside other therapies. However, long-term use of NSAIDs can have side effects like gastrointestinal issues.
  5. Stents or Catheters: For tumors blocking the urinary tract, stents or catheters may be inserted to allow for normal urination. This is more of a palliative measure to improve quality of life than a curative treatment.
  6. Targeted Therapies: Newer treatments like tyrosine kinase inhibitors are also being explored, although these are generally more expensive and not yet widely available.

Holistic Options For Transitional Cell Carcinoma in Dogs

While conventional treatments remain the primary course of action for Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC) in dogs, some pet owners explore holistic options as complementary therapies. These can sometimes help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. However, it’s essential to consult your veterinarian before starting any new treatments, holistic or otherwise. Here are some holistic treatments that are often discussed in the context of canine TCC:

  1. Dietary Changes: Some owners opt for a cancer-fighting diet rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and low-glycemic vegetables. High-quality protein sources like lean meats can also be beneficial.
  2. Herbal Supplements: Certain herbs such as turmeric, milk thistle, and green tea have been suggested to have anti-cancer properties, though scientific support is limited.
  3. CBD Oil: Cannabidiol (CBD) has gained attention for its potential to relieve pain and inflammation, though its effectiveness in treating TCC is not well-studied.
  4. Acupuncture: Used primarily for pain relief and to boost general well-being, acupuncture may offer some benefits in treating the symptoms of TCC.
  5. Homeopathy: While controversial and not supported by scientific evidence, some dog owners turn to homeopathy for its purported ability to treat cancer symptoms and side effects of conventional treatments.
  6. Essential Oils: Some believe that oils like frankincense or myrrh can have anti-cancer benefits, but it’s crucial to note that essential oils can be toxic to dogs if ingested or improperly applied.
  7. Mushroom Therapy: Certain types of mushrooms, like Reishi and Turkey Tail, are said to boost the immune system and may have anti-cancer properties.
  8. Vitamins and Antioxidants: Supplements like Vitamin C and Vitamin E are sometimes recommended to support general health during cancer treatment.
  9. Mind-Body Techniques: While more relevant for human patients, some believe that a positive environment can benefit a dog’s emotional state, potentially strengthening their ability to fight disease.
The Keto Diet for Dogs with Cancer

For further reading, we recommend:

Management of transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder in dogs: a review

Clinical outcomes of dogs with transitional cell carcinoma receiving medical therapy, with and without partial cystectomy – PMC

A Retrospective Clinico-Pathologic Study of 35 Dogs with Urethral Transitional Cell Carcinoma Undergoing Treatment

Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol – PMC

Cannabidiol as a Treatment for Chronic Pain: A Survey of Patients’ Perspectives and Attitudes – PMC

A single dose of cannabidiol (CBD) positively influences measures of stress in dogs during separation and car travel – PMC

Scientific Validation of Cannabidiol for Management of Dog and Cat Diseases | Annual Review of Animal Biosciences

Published by Amber L. Drake

Dr. Amber L. Drake is a celebrated author and a distinguished cancer specialist, renowned for her comprehensive research in canine cancer prevention and nutrition. She is widely recognized for her commitment to helping dogs lead long and joyful lives, as well as for her contributions to veterinary medicine education. As the CEO of Canine Companions Co., the Founder of the Drake Dog Cancer Foundation and Academy, and the Co-Founder of Preferable Pups, she has become a respected and influential figure in the canine community, earning the admiration and respect of dog enthusiasts around the globe.

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