The idea of your dog having a brain tumor is a scary one but it is important to know the signs in case you need to get your dog help. Our Merced vets are here to discuss the symptoms of brain tumors in dogs.
What Exactly Is A Tumor?
Tumors are uncontrolled cells that grow and destroy healthy tissue, resulting in brain damage and serious neurologic symptoms.
Brain tumors are classified as either primary or secondary. Primary brain tumors arise from brain tissues or the membranes that cover the brain, whereas secondary brain tumors are metastases that have spread to the brain from a tumor in another part of the body. MRI or CT scans are typically used to diagnose brain tumors.
Primary Brain Tumors
Primary brain tumors arise from cells in the brain's lining and the brain itself. Primary brain tumors in dogs are classified into four types:
- Meningioma: arising from the coverings of the brain
- Glioma: arising from the support cells of the brain
- Ependymoma: arising from the lining of the fluid-filled spaces of the brain
- Choroid plexus tumors: arising from the cells that help produce spinal fluid
Secondary Brain Tumors
Secondary brain tumors, on the other hand, begin elsewhere in the body and spread to the brain via a process known as metastasis.
What Are The Causes Of Brain Tumors In Dogs?
Canine brain tumors have no known cause, but dietary, environmental, genetic, chemical, viral, traumatic, or immune system factors could be involved.
While any dog can develop cancer, some breeds seem to have a higher risk of brain cancer. These include:
- Golden Retrievers
- French Bulldogs
- Boston Terriers
- Doberman Pinschers
- English Bulldogs
Meningiomas, which are benign tumors originating from the membranes covering the brain, are more common in dogs with long, narrow heads and noses.
Pugs and other short-nosed breeds are more likely to develop pituitary gland tumors and glial cell tumors, which arise from nervous system structural cells.
The majority of dogs who develop brain tumors are over the age of five.
What Symptoms Indicate A Brain Tumor In Dogs?
The actual symptoms associated with brain tumors can differ depending on the location of the tumor.
Forebrain Tumor Symptoms
Symptoms of tumors located in the front part of the brain include:
- Behavioral Changes (including your dog seeming lost, withdrawn, or irritable)
Hindbrain Tumor Symptoms
Symptoms of tumors located in the back part of the brain include:
- Darting eyes
- Wobbiness when walking
- Head tilt
- A drop in alertness
- Weakness in the limbs
- Weakness on one side of the body
How Are Dog Brain Tumors Treated?
Treatment depends on the type of brain tumor diagnosed. Generally, there are three ways to treat a brain tumor in dogs:
- Neurosurgery, performed by an experienced, board-certified veterinary surgeon.
- Radiation therapy, administered alone or in combination with other treatments.
- Chemotherapy medication, which may shrink the tumor and improve clinical signs.
Steroids can be used to reduce fluid buildup or slow the growth of a brain tumor, and some dogs with brain tumors may improve dramatically in clinical signs. Medication to control seizures may also be prescribed.
How Long Can A Dog Live With A Brain Tumor?
Brain tumors progress fairly rapidly in dogs, thus a timeline is hard to predict. A dog with a primary brain tumor has a prognosis of 3 to 6 months with palliative care, or 5 to 28 months with radiation and/or surgery. Secondary brain tumors, unfortunately, usually mean your dog has about a month.