Bladder Cancer In Dogs, When To Euthanize & Say Goodbye

If your canine companion has just been diagnosed with bladder cancer, you are likely searching for guidance on what this means for their future. Bladder cancer is one of the more rare forms of cancer in dogs, so many pet parents have no idea what this disease could have in store.

Whether it’s questions about your dog’s bladder cancer symptoms or how much time they have left, we understand how important it is to have as much information as possible. We want to help not only understand what lies ahead for your dog as they move forward with this journey, but to also help you make that final decision when it is time to euthanize.

In this article we will discuss the details of bladder cancer in dogs, the signs of the final stages of their disease, and how to know when is it time to say goodbye.

When To Euthanize A Dog With Bladder Cancer

What Is Bladder Cancer In Dogs?

Bladder cancer in dogs is a devastating condition that deeply impacts a dog’s life from the point of diagnosis. Bladder cancer is one of the more rare forms of cancer in our canine friends, as it only makes up about 2% of all cancer cases diagnosed each year.

While it may not be seen often in our beloved pups, it is an unfortunate reality that so many dogs and their parents still face.

There are multiple forms of cancer that can impact the dog’s urinary system, but transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) is the most common type of cancer responsible for this disease in dogs.

This form of cancer develops within the epithelial cells that line the dog’s bladder, allowing it to replicate rapidly within the bladder tissue and muscles. While it may begin as a collection of cancerous tissue along the bladder lining, it can soon become a large bladder mass that wreaks havoc on the dog’s urinary health.

This type of cancer can spread to other portions of the urinary system as it progresses, and can eventually spread to other organs in the abdomen as well. Bladder cancer in dogs is known for being highly invasive, so unfortunately for our canine friends, early detection is essential for offering your pup the most time.

Why Do Dogs Get Bladder Cancer?

Just like any form of cancer in humans, we can’t typically get to the root cause of a dog’s bladder cancer. While we may never have a concrete answer on why your canine friend developed bladder cancer, there are a few factors that have been linked to the disease.

The first potential link to bladder cancer in dogs is genetics. There is a list of dog breeds that bladder cancer is seen in most often, leading experts to believe that some breeds may simply be more at risk than others.

For example, Scottish Terriers are believed to be up to 20 times more likely to develop cancer in their urinary system. Bladder cancer is so much more common in these pups that they are often used for bladder cancer research, and they are typically seen as the poster child for this canine condition.

The other canine friends that appear to have a higher risk of developing bladder cancer in their future include:

  • Beagles
  • West Highland Terriers
  • Border Collies
  • Australian Shepherds
  • Shetland Sheepdogs
  • Wire Hair Fox Terriers

While having one of these breeds in your family does not mean bladder cancer will be in their future, it is always something to keep in mind.

The next potential factor that has been linked to bladder cancer in dogs is exposure to toxic environmental factors. A research team at Purdue University has found a link to chemicals such as lawn herbicides and pesticides, especially old school pesticides that were used in previous years.

And last, there might also be a connection with previous bacterial infections and the development of bladder cancer down the line. Bacterial infections of the bladder might alter the cells within the bladder lining, ultimately increasing the risk of bladder cancer in the future.

At the end of the day, multiple factors will likely play a role in each case of bladder cancer in dogs and when you may need to talk about euthanizing your pup.

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Bladder Cancer In Dogs?

If your dog has just been diagnosed with bladder cancer, you are likely wondering what type of symptoms your dog may experience throughout this journey. To help you have a better idea of what to expect, let’s break down some of the most common symptoms of bladder cancer in dogs below.

Signs and symptoms of bladder cancer in dogs include:

  • Urinating small amounts often
  • Squatting multiple times while outside
  • Foul smelling urine
  • Discolored or bloody urine
  • Frequently licking the vulva or penis
  • Having accidents around the house
  • Difficulty settling down or getting comfortable
  • Chronic urinary tract infections
  • Bleeding from the vulva or penis
  • Pain when urinating
  • Incontinence

Other symptoms that can come along with later stages of bladder cancer include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Disinterest in exercise

The signs of bladder cancer will vary from dog to dog, but the symptoms above are typically what you can expect in canine friends with urinary cancer. While these symptoms can deeply impact a dog’s quality of life, you can always work with your vet to keep your dog as comfortable as possible throughout this journey.

Can You Treat Bladder Cancer In Dogs?

From the moment your vet tells you that your dog has bladder cancer, you will likely be researching the treatment options that are on the table.

Treatment options will vary based on how progressed your dog’s cancer is and the symptoms they are currently experiencing, but let’s break down some of the most common treatments your vet will discuss.


The first potential treatment option for bladder cancer is surgery, but this is only possible in a small number of dogs with the cancer. Removing a cancerous mass from the bladder is often extremely challenging due to the structure of the bladder itself, and the fact that so many parts of the bladder are vital to its function.

If your dog’s bladder mass is in a location that seems beneficial to remove, then your vet may recommend this option. It’s important to keep in mind that this is not often curative, so you will simply be offering your pup some additional time.


Piroxicam is the most common treatment method for bladder cancer in dogs. This NSAID was found to surprisingly cause remission in dogs with cancer when originally used to treat pain and inflammation, leading to its use in fighting the disease today.

It is often used as more of a management option when it comes to slowing the progression of the cancer and limiting painful symptoms, but some dogs will experience shrinking of their mass and increased survival times when used in addition to chemotherapy medications.

Piroxicam & Chemotherapy

As we mentioned above, Piroxicam can often be used in addition to IV chemotherapy agents. When Piroxicam is used in addition to chemotherapy in a stable dog, these pups were found to have longer survival times (50-150 days more on average).

It’s important to know that the best results are seen in dogs that are currently stable and not experiencing severe symptoms, so your vet will determine if your dog is the best candidate for this treatment option.

Life Expectancy Of Bladder Cancer In Dogs

As we discussed above, bladder cancer in dogs is typically an invasive disease that does eventually metastasize. Due to this, the average life expectancy of a dog with bladder cancer is typically anywhere from 6 months to 1 year.

This time frame can vary based on whether or not you pursue treatment for your furry friend, but most pups will lose their battle to this disease within a year of being diagnosed. This is either due to the fact that the dog’s quality of life will decline to the point of the pet parent letting them go, or their cancer will spread to other vital organs throughout the body.

Is Bladder Cancer In Dogs Painful?

Now that you are aware of the details of the disease and how you can manage its progression, it’s time to talk about your dog’s quality of life as they move forward.

Pet parents will ask many questions about the details of their dog’s bladder cancer, but the most common concerns will revolve around their dog’s pain. Nobody wants their beloved pet to experience discomfort, so it is commonly wondered just how much pain their dogs will experience as the days go on.

Unfortunately, bladder cancer is considered a painful cancer in dogs. This is due to the fact that the bladder itself is such a sensitive organ, and that there is no way to avoid its use. However, it’s important to keep in mind that while their symptoms of bladder cancer can be uncomfortable, there are ways to manage your dog’s pain with medication and dietary changes.

This is why it is so important to work with your vet to determine the best management option, and to educate yourself on the signs of a dog that is suffering. By being aware of the symptoms your dog may experience when they are beginning to suffer, you can then make that important decision when it is time.

Final Stages Of Bladder Cancer Symptoms In Dogs

Our canine companions cannot tell us how they are feeling as they battle their bladder cancer, so it’s up to us to be aware of the signs of their suffering.

Many pet parents will make the difficult decision to let their dogs go once they progress to the late stages of their cancer, and you can typically identify this period by looking out for the following symptoms:

  • Chronic UTIs that do not resolve
  • Severe pain when urinating
  • Inability to urinate
  • Difficulty sitting comfortably
  • Frequent bleeding from the penis or vulva
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Behavioral changes
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy or chronic depression
  • Respiratory changes

If your dog with bladder cancer has begun to experience any of the above symptoms, then it might be time to have a discussion with your vet about their quality of life.

There could still be additional treatment options for your pup at this point, but every situation will vary. Your vet is the only one that knows the details of your dog’s situation, so we always suggest trusting their guidance when it is time to discuss their quality of life.

When To Euthanize A Dog With Bladder Cancer

If your dog with bladder cancer has entered the late stages of their disease, you may wonder when it is time to make that final decision to say goodbye. This is a deeply personal decision that only you can make, but you can always lean on your veterinary team for support.

We encourage you to speak with your vet about each of your dog’s symptoms and what they mean, and if there is any way to improve their comfort moving forward. If both you and your vet decide that your dog’s pain is no longer manageable, then it might be time to think about saying goodbye to your beloved pup.

We know this is an impossible decision, but we hope that you can work with your vet to make the best decision possible for your family member.


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