Though they are rare, brain tumors in dogs can be drastic. Canine tumors are resulting in countless problems depending on factors like location, size, and several others. Not only can these unusual growths affect your dog’s brain, but they can also change the ability of other organs in the body depending on location.
However, with medical attention, your pet’s chances can improve significantly! Never wait to see a vet if you notice seizures or odd behavioral changes.
What are Tumors?
As a matter of fact, a tumor is simply an abnormal growth, or cluster, of cells in the body. Sometimes, the genetic code meant to be copied when a cell divides or replicates itself can become damaged. If that bit of code isn’t repaired or destroyed by the body, the damaged cell can make another damaged cell, and that cell might make two more bad cells.
In most cases, the body has several defenses to stop this from happening. For example, there is a specific protein that travels up your DNA, repairing mistakes in the sequence. There are other proteins that exist solely to ‘lyse’, or destroy, damaged cells.
But what happens when these defenses are missing or damaged themselves?
- Primary Brain Tumor: Comes from cells usually found within the brain, or surrounding membranes.
- Secondary Brain Tumor: Usually the damaged DNA spreads to the brain from other areas of the body. Or a tumor located in other areas of the body but affecting the brain. Damaged cells that begin to affect multiple areas of the body, causing otherwise unrelated cells to become damaged, can be Cancerous.
- Tumors Simplified: When it all comes down to it, without all of the medical mumbo
jumbo, brain tumors are made up of simply a bunch of bad, mutated cells! These tumors can be benign or malignant. M alignantmeaning they are cancerous and can spread throughout the body. The basic principle is the same for both humans and dogs.
Tumors in Dogs?
Almost anything can cause changes in your and dog’s genetics, and in turn, lead to tumors; there really is no exact cause. You could be dealing with something as simple as too much sunlight (sunburn).
As a brain tumor becomes larger, it begins to take up space reserved for healthy nervous tissue.
This leads to pressure changes, resulting in behavioral changes or other neurologic signs.
Dog Breeds More Likely to Develop a Brain Tumor
There are several dog breeds that have higher brain tumor risk. In fact, brain tumors are core common in older dogs. The following breeds are known to more likely develop brain tumor:
- English Bulldog
- Boston Terrier
- Golden Retriever
Possible Symptoms of Brain Tumors in Dogs
Seizures are among the most common symptoms of brain tumors in dogs, and a pretty direct signal something is wrong. Strange, unexplainable or unusual changes in behavior are another big sign something is going on. You might see unusually high anxiety, extreme responses to touch, or odd ‘drunken’ behavior.
- Altered behavior
- Decreased cognitive/mental function
- Hearing loss
- Vision loss
- Abnormal pupil size
- Constant or abnormal panting
- Difficulty walking
- Circling in one direction
Treating Canine Brain Tumors
The only way to definitively diagnose a brain tumor in dogs is to take a biopsy or remove a small portion to examine it. A CT scan or MRI is used also. After that, there are three main methods to treat a brain tumor. Various medications are used to manage secondary effects, like seizures.
- Chest x-rays are used to make sure nothing has spread to or from the lungs.
- Blood work is examined to ensure other organs, like the kidneys or liver, are functioning properly.
Metastatic brain cancer, or a tumor that has spread to the brain from a different area in the body, are treated differently. Thankfully, the chance an existing brain tumor will spread throughout the body is pretty rare.
During brain surgery, the dog’s skull cap is removed, and the tumor (or a smaller portion of it) is essentially ‘scooped out’. Depending on the size and location, this can lead to any number of side effects.
Radiation is often the treatment of choice when a brain tumor isn’t easily operable. This method can help shrink the tumor, so surgery is safer and easier than before.
Though it is another option to help shrink brain tumors, chemotherapy is the least popular of the three options. Because many chemo drugs aren’t easily able to enter brain tissue or target a specific area in the brain. Additionally, chemotherapy itself also has the potential to cause several side effects.
Living With and Managing Brain Tumors in Dogs
Regardless of the treatment decision, dogs suffering from brain tumors should get regular checkups. Regular evaluations are important, to offer the best possible care and detect any other changes in your pet’s health early.
Estimated Survival Rates will always differ depending on things like the size and location of the tumor. As well as age, breed, size, and health of your dog. It’s almost impossible to offer a near-exact time frame. That being said:
- 2-4 months with only supportive care.
- 6-12 months with only surgery.
- 7-24 months with just radiation therapy.
- 6 months to 3 years with radiation therapy before surgery.
- 7-11 months with just chemo.
Conclusion: What are Your Options?
Your treatment options are going to depend on things like the location and size of the tumor, also your dog’s general health and age. Certain types of brain tumors in dogs tend to respond much better to surgery, like meningiomas. Whereas other, fast or invasive types tend to respond poorly. The best way to learn about the options available to you and your pet is to speak to a
- Palliative care: Focus on improving the quality of life.
- Radiation or/and chemotherapy to shrink the tumor.
- Surgery to remove the tumor.
- Medication to help lower swelling in the brain.