Canine urothelial carcinoma, more commonly know as transitional cell carcinoma, is a urinary bladder cancer. This cancer is typically very aggressive in dogs, with the potential to move to other locations in the body and grow rapidly. While it is an uncommon canine cancer, it can have disastrous effects to dogs, blocking ureters and even affecting kidneys.
Genetic predisposition appears to be largely associated with transitional cell carcinoma, and Scottish terriers are much more likely to be affected than other dogs. The Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine studied potential environmental causes associated with TCC in Scottish terriers, and linked lawn treatments and pesticides closely to development of TCC. Smoking is closely associated with TCC development in people, but studies have not shown if cigarette smoke is linked in dogs as well.
Dogs with TCC have signs similar to urinary tract infection: bloody urine, frequent urination attempts or straining to urinate. Your veterinarian will need a tissue sample to diagnose TCC, although ultrasound imaging of the bladder may be suggestive of the cancer when it shows a mass in the bladder.
Surgery would be ideal to remove TCC, but it is often difficult to remove the entire mass without damaging necessary tissue. Radiation therapy has been used but is associated with complications such as bladder scarring. Most affected dogs are treated with medication, namely piroxicam.
Elizabeth Muirhead is a practicing veterinarian with an undergraduate degree in biological sciences. She has real-world experience with the husbandry, grooming, training and feeding a variety of household pets.