Did you know that both dogs and people get bladder cancer? Did you know that some breeds are almost 20 X more likely to get bladder cancer than other breeds? And did you know that there is a test that can help determine if your pet does NOT have bladder cancer?
Bladder cancer is not an uncommon cancer in either people or pets. In people somewhere between 1 in 28 to 1 in 84 will develop the disease. In dogs, 2% will develop the disease, but certain breeds—Scottish terriers, Shetland sheepdogs, beagles, and West Highland white terriers—have a much higher risk of developing bladder transitional cell carcinoma. Of these breeds, Scottish terriers have the highest risk, with an almost 20-fold increased risk compared with mixed-breed dogs. In addition to breed, another risk factor in dogs is the exposure to herbicides and / or pesticide s on the lawn.
The signs of bladder cancer in dogs are straining to urinate, increased frequency of urination, and blood in the urine. These signs are very similar to the symptoms people report. Because our pets cannot talk to us, we often detect bladder cancer at a more advanced stage compared to people. There is a test—the Bladder Tumor Antigen (BTA) test-that can be used. This test is very sensitive—meaning it is very good at detecting the disease if it exists, but it is not very specific—meaning it is NOT very good at telling us that a positive tests actually means that they have the disease. The BTA may, however, be very useful for screening young dogs of at risk breeds. If Scottish terriers, Shetland sheepdogs, beagles, and West Highland white terriers were screened with the BTA, a negative result would inform the owner with a high probability that the dog was free of bladder cancer at that time.
So the bottom line, and best advice for decreasing the risk of bladder cancer in your pets is to: 1) restrict their exposure to herbicides and pesticides and 2) if you have a breed that has a high risk (or you are a very concerned owner) you may want to start yearly screenings your dog with the BTA test at a young age.