When To Euthanize A Dog With Brain Tumors

If your dog has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, you will likely have to discuss euthanasia with your vet at some point.

Brain tumors can be incredibly invasive and life altering for our pups, often leading to a decreased quality of life as they progress.

So how do you know when it is time to say goodbye to your beloved dog with a brain tumor?

In this article we will help you better understand the signs of a late stage brain tumor in dogs, and when it may be time to put your furry friend to sleep because of it.

When To Euthanize A Dog With Brain Tumors

Can Dogs Get Brain Tumors?

Yes, dogs can develop multiple types of brain tumors.

These tumors can be either cancerous or benign in nature, and they can be either primary or secondary.

To help you better understand what these terms mean, let’s break it down a bit.

First, let’s explain the difference between benign and cancerous brain tumors in dogs.

If a tumor is listed as benign in our furry friends, this means that the tumor is not cancerous, or it does not invade the surrounding tissue.

Though it is not a growing cancer within your dog’s brain, the tumor itself can still grow and cause life altering symptoms.

If the tumor is cancerous or malignant, this means that the tumor is a growing cancer and has the ability to spread to other tissues.

Now that you understand the differences between a benign and cancerous brain tumor in dogs, let’s break down the terms primary and secondary.

Difference Between Primary And Secondary Brain Tumors

If your dog has a primary brain tumor, this means that the tumor originated in the brain, and is not the result of a spreading cancer.

If a brain tumor is considered secondary, this means it is a result of a malignant cancer that has now invaded the dog’s brain as well.

We don’t know exactly why some dogs develop brain tumors, but many will experience them as a result of malignant cancer.

Aside from the presence of systemic cancer, old age and hereditary links may also play a role in the development of canine brain tumors.

What Are The Signs Of A Brain Tumor In Dogs?

Just like in humans, brain tumors in dogs can lead to many life altering symptoms.

The brain is essentially the control center of the body, so you can imagine just how impactful a growing brain tumor can be for a dog.

If your dog has been diagnosed with a brain tumor of any kind, you will likely notice abnormal neurological symptoms or changes in behavior.

Some of the most common symptoms of a brain tumor in dogs include:

  • Head tilt
  • Stumbling or an unsteady gait
  • Seizures
  • Changes in normal behavior, such as increased aggression, confusion, and increased anxiety
  • Changes in their vision
  • Head pressing
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Frequent circling
  • Increased amount of panting
  • Nystagmus, or rapid movement of the eyes
  • Vomiting
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Neck pain or sensitivity around their head and neck
  • Increased vocalization
  • Changes in sleeping patterns

If your dog has a secondary brain tumor, you may also notice symptoms that are specific to their current form of cancer.

Each of the symptoms listed above should warrant an immediate vet visit, so we always suggest taking the above symptoms seriously.

Can You Treat Brain Tumors In Dogs?

There are treatment options available for dogs with a brain tumor, but it will vary based on the type of tumor they have.

Only certain options will be available based on your dog’s case, but let’s discuss each option that could be on the table.

Chemotherapy

If your dog has a secondary brain tumor as a result of systemic cancer, chemotherapy may be an option your vet suggests.

Chemotherapy may help in shrinking the brain tumor and reducing symptoms, allowing your dog to have a better quality of life for the time being.

Surgery

If your dog has a primary brain tumor that is not cancerous, surgery may be curative for some pups.

The average vet will not be able to perform this skilled procedure, so your dog will need to see a veterinary neurologist.

Radiation

If surgery is not an option for your dog, your veterinarian may recommend radiation therapy.

Radiation can be used to shrink the brain tumor, which can in turn reduce your dog’s symptoms temporarily.

Radiation can also be used after surgery if your vet would like to take care of any remaining cancer cells in the tissue.

General Management

If you are unable to pursue treatment for any reason, or if your dog is suffering with their symptoms, your vet can prescribe daily medications to relieve their symptoms.

This can include seizure medications to reduce the frequency of seizures, appetite stimulants to encourage your dog to eat, steroids for pain and inflammation, as well as any other medical management your dog can benefit from.

How Quickly Do Brain Tumors Grow In Dogs?

Brain tumors in dogs can grow at a different rate based on the type of tumor they have.

For example, benign brain tumors typically grow at a slow rate, while cancerous tumors can invade the surrounding tissues within 2 months.

The best way to understand the growth rate of your dog’s brain tumor is by discussing your dog’s specific diagnosis with your vet, and by understanding the possible outcomes of the treatment options you pursue.

Without having an exact diagnosis in mind, brain tumors in dogs can increase to fatal sizes within 2-10 months.

Again, this is an average estimate when comparing the many different types of brain tumors in dogs.

How Long Can A Dog Live With A Brain Tumor?

If your dog has just been diagnosed with a brain tumor, you are likely wondering how much time you have left with your beloved companion.

You likely understand by now that their specific prognosis will vary based on the type and size of brain tumor they have, but let’s offer you some averages below.

  • With surgery & radiation: 6 months to 3 years
  • With radiation: 6 months to 2 years
  • With chemotherapy: 6 to 11 months
  • Supportive care only (steroids & seizure control: 2 to 4 months

As you can see, some of these averages vary significantly.

This is because every dog will have a different diagnosis and tumor size at the time of their diagnosis, and these factors will impact their average survival time.

Should I Try To Treat My Dog’s Brain Tumor?

Many dog parents struggle with the question of whether or not to treat their dog with a brain tumor.

In order to make the best decision for your pup, you will need to consider the type of tumor they have, the severity of their symptoms, and your current budget.

For example, if your dog is having daily seizures and head pressing at the time of their tumor diagnosis, some vets will not recommend moving forward with aggressive treatment.

The more severe their symptoms are at the time of diagnosis, the worse their prognosis is in the long run.

In these situations, many vets will suggest having a quality of life discussion.

However, if your dog’s brain tumor is diagnosed in the early stages of their disease, moving forward with treatment can offer your pup up to 3 years of quality time.

As long as costs are not an issue, many of these furry friends will have quite some time in remission.

Again, examining every aspect of your dog’s case is the best way to determine whether or not you should move forward with treatment.

Remember, if you do not want to seek treatment for your pup, you can always offer palliative care until it is time to make that final decision.

What Happens If I Don’t Treat My Dog’s Brain Tumor?

If your dog is not receiving chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery for their brain tumor, you are likely wondering what this means for your dog’s future.

There are many reasons why some owners cannot pursue treatment for their pup, ranging from cost concerns to the severity of their dog’s condition.

No matter the case, it’s important to know what to expect.

If your dog does not receive the treatments we listed above, this means your dog will most likely have a shortened survival time.

Dogs that receive palliative care alone will typically survive anywhere from 2 to 4 months, with cases varying based on the severity of their daily symptoms.

It is completely understandable to pass on brain tumor treatment for your dog, but you should still be aware that your pup will have limited time.

Late Stage Brain Tumor Symptoms In Dogs

As your dog’s brain tumor begins to grow and invade the surrounding tissue, you will typically notice a decline in their health.

This will often involve an increase in neurological symptoms, many of which will make it challenging for the pup to go about their day.

Some of the most common signs of late stage brain tumors include:

Seizures: A growing brain tumor in dogs will impact the normal electrical activity within the canine brain.

When this happens, frequent seizures will often develop.

Not only can frequent seizures be concerning for the dog owner, but they can cause serious damage to the dog’s neurological and cognitive health.

Disorientation & confusion: As a result of the changed electrical activity in the brain and cognitive decline a tumor can cause, many dogs will suffer from severe disorientation and confusion.

This can make daily life extremely challenging for the dog, and will often lead to an increase in anxiety and changed behavior.

Vestibular disease: A growing brain tumor in dogs can lead to the development of vestibular disease.

This condition is characterized by severe disorientation, nystagmus, ataxia, wobbly gait, nausea, and general distress.

A dog with vestibular symptoms may not be able to get around on their own due to how challenging normal movement can become.

It will feel as if their world is spinning at all times.

Aspiration pneumonia: Some dogs with a late stage brain tumor can develop aspiration pneumonia.

Dogs that are experiencing frequent seizures may aspirate their saliva during these episodes, causing a serious infection to brew within the lungs.

Is My Dog Dying From Their Brain Tumor?

No matter how long our dogs may find remission through brain tumor treatment, most dogs will eventually succumb to their tumor.

Due to this, many dog owners wonder how they can spot when their dog’s brain tumor is beginning to kill them.

In most cases, a dog dying from their brain tumor will experience severe symptoms such as frequent seizures, disorientation, vestibular disease, and altered behavior.

In addition to their neurological decline, some dogs may even stop eating, lose weight, appear depressed, and develop respiratory distress if their cancer has metastasized to their lungs.

If you think your dog is dying from their brain tumor, we suggest having them seen by your vet.

They can either discuss any final options that may ease your dog’s symptoms, or they may speak with you about the potential for saying goodbye.

When Should I Euthanize My Dog With A Brain Tumor?

If your dog has been diagnosed with a brain tumor of any kind, you may need to be prepared to say goodbye if their tumor causes them to suffer.

In order to end your dog’s suffering in these situations, it’s important to be aware of the signs of when it may be time to euthanize your dog.

It may be time to say goodbye to your dog with a brain tumor if they are experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Frequent seizures
  • Seizures that last for extended periods
  • Vestibular disease
  • Frequent disorientation or confusion
  • Head pressing
  • Aggression or significant changes in behavior
  • Weight loss
  • Chronic lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Cancer specific symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, respiratory distress, painful tumors, significant weight loss, etc. 

If your beloved companion is experiencing any of the above symptoms, we suggest speaking with your vet about their quality of life.

They can help you make the best decision for your pup.

How Do I Know If I Am Making The Right Decision?

No matter how much we tell ourselves that we are making the right decision for our dog, we will always question if we could have done more.

Our furry friends will forever hold a special place in our heart, so it is natural to second guess your options in these final moments.

If you are struggling with whether or not it is time to say goodbye to your dog, we always suggest having an in-depth conversation with your vet.

They can speak to you in detail about your dog’s case, and explain the ways in which your dog is beginning to suffer.

By having your vet team on your side, you can move forward with your decision with 100% certainty.

Final Thoughts On When To Put Down Your Dog With A Brain Tumor

A brain tumor diagnosis in your dog is absolutely devastating for any pet parent.

If your dog is still active and living life, then you should have many months left with them.

But if your dog seems to be suffering, then a quality of life conversation needs to happen with your veterinarian.

A close relationship with your vet is essential in extending your dog’s survival time, and can help you through the process when it is time to let go.

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