Anal Cancer in Dogs
Anal cancer is a malignant and invasive disease that affects the glands situated by the sides of the anus. These glands produce foul-smelling secretions that are added in trace amounts to fecal matter for the purpose of marking territory. Anal gland cancer usually affects a single sac, while rarer and more serious cases may affect both.
The condition has a poor prognosis, often spreading to various body parts, especially the lymph nodes, liver, and lungs. Anal gland cancer has been associated with an imbalance of hormones in the parathyroid glands.
Affected dogs may experience a lack of appetite and constant lethargy. Sufferers may also face problems with defecation, through constipation and obstipation, often exhibiting an arched back due to strained bowel movements. Your pet’s stool may appear in ribbon-thin strips due to tumor obstructions. Anal gland cancer is also commonly characterized by a prominent swelling of the anal region in more advanced cases.
The cancer is also known to cause elevated calcium levels (hypercalcemia), which lead to vomiting, muscle weakness, decreased activity, lowered heart rate, polydipsia (excessive thirst) and weight loss.
Vets may conduct preliminary diagnostics such as blood count tests, urine analysis, and blood chemistry profile, which will provide a general breakdown of organ function. Fine needle aspiration is then applied to the cancerous mass and affected regions. The needle biopsy will help vets test the malignancy of the tumor and determine the best treatment.
X-ray and ultrasound scans may be used to provide detailed images to determine how far the tumor has spread.
Treatment depends on the size of the tumor and whether it has been metastasized. Smaller tumors may be surgically removed along with affected anal glands. Vets may recommend chemotherapy for cases involving larger tumors. Chemotherapy will help shrink the tumors to make them safer for surgical extraction. MRI or CT scans will help vets determine the size of the tumors.
In metastasized cases, vets will focus on palliative care focused on alleviating bowel strains. However, such treatments are unlikely to improve survival rates.
Anal sacculectomy (surgical removal of affected glands) procedures cost between $1,000 – $2,000, depending on the level of complications and length of hospitalization.
Home care and management of dogs with anal gland cancer
Vets will inform owners on pain-management care for affected dogs upon surgery and discharge. Although anal gland cancer has a generally poor outlook, vets will help owners select the best treatment that optimizes the odds of survival for their pets.