Canine Prostate Cancer

By: Dr. Al Townshend

Unlike prostate cancer in human males, canine prostate cancer is a very uncommon condition.

It has been estimated that it comprises only about 0.6% of all cancers found in dogs.

Also, unlike human prostate cancer, the canine form is highly malignant and has often spread to organs like the lungs, bones and lymph nodes before the initial diagnosis is made.

The average age of diagnosis is approximately 10 years. There are certain breeds that have a higher incidence of prostate cancer; the Bouvier des Flandres, Doberman and some German pointer breeds. It has also been noted that it is more common in neutered (castrated) dogs.

There is no known direct cause of prostate cancer other than the possibility of a genetic factor.

Symptoms can include; listless, weight loss, discomfort and pain, difficulty urinating and defecating, and lameness (if the cancer has spread to the bones).

Treatment options are limited due to the risk of the cancer spreading before the diagnosis is made. If your veterinarian suspects cancer, it is important you seek a specialist to properly diagnose the condition and if possible, the type of cancer.

Lab tests, biopsies, x-rays, ultrasound, CAT scans and even an MRI are often needed to make the diagnosis and determine the best approach.

Treatment options are limited for dogs. Surgery is generally not done due to the difficulty and resulting side effects from most surgical procedures that have been attempted. However, at the present time, there is a clinical trial going on at the veterinary school at U C Davis using a human surgical procedure known as transarterial embolization which is intended to reduce the size of the cancer and improve both the quality of life and life span.

There is no standard chemotherapy for canine prostate cancer so determining the type of cancer and making sure it has not already spread are essential.

Radiation therapy is generally not done due to the resulting side effects.

Unfortunately, in many cases, the best approach is to make the pet as comfortable as possible and enjoy the time you have.

Once the diagnosis is completed and difficult decisions need to be made, remember:

  • It is important to consider the affect the decisions will have on the welfare of the pet and equally important are the affects it will have on the family;
  • Family members need to go through this difficult time together. Decisions need to be made together so everyone is on the same page;
  • Children especially, need to understand the condition, the seriousness and the options.
  • To consider the commitment of both time and money and the long-term effect that might have on the family.

There are no easy choices when it comes to pet cancer and what’s best for our pets and so to make the best decisions the family must work together.

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