Dog Cancer Tests: Blood, Urine and More? - Dog Cancer Blog

Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

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Dog Cancer Tests: Blood, Urine and More?

Healthy dogs should have early detection cancer screens.  The reason for this is that veterinarians often fail to eradicate cancer in a given dog.  The fact that cancer is the single number one cause of dog death should make this clear.

If you have a dog of about 10 years of age or more, statistics show that this dog will have a 40-50% chance of  dying of cancer.  This is scary data!!

The problem is that we (veterinarians like myself) are lagging behind in our recommendations.  By the time a dog develops cancer to the point where there are visible signs, we are often too late to do anything of benefit using conventional veterinary care.

Certain breeds are more at risk for cancers than others.  Common examples that come to mind are the Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, Scottish Terrier, Boxer, Mastiff, Burnese Mountain Dog, Cocker, Labrador Retriever, Pug, Sharpei, Greyhound, Flat Coated Retriever, Chow,  Collie, Irish Wolfhound, and American Bulldog,  just to name a few.

Mixed breed dogs, as well as other breeds, get cancer too.

We really need to get involved doing early cancer screening.  Sadly, blood testing for dog cancers is way behind that of human medicine.  There is, however, a lymphoma test put out by Pet Screen which is a good quality test that would be worth considering in older dogs prone to lymphoma like the Golden, Cocker, Lab, or Boxer.  Veterinarians and dog lovers need to team up to make sure the test results are interpreted accurately.  Talk to your vet about getting new information on this new technology.

Scotties are 18 times prone to transitional cell carcinoma than other breeds.  Senior Scotties could benefit from a urine test called the Veterinary Bladder Tumor Antigen (v-TBA).  Although this test is a bit tricky to interpret if positive, a negative test result is usually accurate and reliable.  That means a negative v-TBA is usually real, but a positive v-TBA may be false.

We really should be using the ultrasound to check the abdomen of these at-risk dogs on a regular basis. This is a harmless tool that emits sound waves to produce an image.  Most have seen ultrasound images of a developing child during pregnancy.

This tool can look at the liver, spleen, kidneys, bladder, prostate (in males), lymph nodes, and more.  It is a great way to scan the inner world of a dog, giving information that neither a physical exam or an X-ray could.

General blood work and urine testing is a good idea in senior dogs to screen for overall health.

The Dog Cancer Survival Guide discusses these topics in more detail.

At this point in the development of our profession, it is high time we vets start pushing for early cancer detection. Don’t be afraid to bring this topic up to your veterinarian, and be your dog’s number one health advocate!

Best to all,

Dr Dressler

About the Author: Demian Dressler, DVM

Dr. Demian Dressler, DVM is known as the "dog cancer vet" and is author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog's Life Quality and Longevity.

  • Lisbeth Gjetnes

    I would like to say that my Standard Poodle had a Lymphoma test when he was 7 years old and it was negative. Now, in 2009 he was diagnosed with an Agressive giant cell sarcoma which was removed surgically. The veterinarians wanted him to have chemo and radiotherapy. I decided against this and went down the homeopathic route instead. Well, 3 months on his treatment and the regrowth of his tumour has shrunk away in front of my eyes. He is well, full of energy and there is noting concerning me about his health. He has also gone onto a raw meat and veg diet with added aloe vera and vit.C. My homeopathic veterinarian is well pleased and so am I. This to me proves without doubt that homeopathy works and works well!! Regards Lisbeth Gjetnes

    • Dr. Dressler

      Dear Lisbeth,
      Would you like to share the homeopathic route used in this successful story for the other readers?
      Dr D

  • Fred

    What is the homeopathic regimen you are using? My 10 year old poodle has had two major MCT surgeries in his inguinal area, palladia until it quit working and on Nov. 18, 2009 he was dismissed by the Oncologist supplying the palladia.

    We have been on our own regimen since then since our regular Vet. told us to take him home keep him comfortable. We are following recommendations made by Dr. Dressler in his book and it appears we are making some progress, however he faces a tough road. He still has a healthy appetite, interested in his surroundings and environment and is very alert.

    • Dr. Dressler

      Dear Fred,
      you may want to contact Dr. Albert Ahn at AB Sciences in New Jersey to get your vet involved with the compassionate use program for masitinib, which is a pre-FDA approval medication for mast cell tumors…
      Dr D

  • Patti

    I’d be very interested to hear Lisbeth’s homeopathic regimen, too. My 9 year old yellow Lab is currently undergoing chemotherapy for a large MCT on his left foot which has spread into his lymphnodes. He’s doing the vinblastine CCNU (Lomustine) protocol. The tumor on his foot has all but disappeared. But, his white cells are down (likely due to the CCNU). Thanks!

  • My 7 year old hound mix, Mary, was diagnosed w/ Lymphoma back in July and just finished chemo last month. I have learned that a raw diet can be dangerous for animals undergoing chemo- because of the risk of a lowered white blood cell count- they’re more prone to infection. Look for GRAIN-FREE dog foods and treats (cancer feeds on carbs and sugars)!
    btw: The vet told us that Mary handled chemo better than any dog they’d ever treated- and I truly believe it was because of the supplements we gave her in addition to everything else- fish oil (of course) and -tada!- COLOSTRUM! We started our dog on a colostrum supplement called Transfer Factor- it’s a blend of colostrum & herbs that help strengthen your immune system. A friend of ours used to have terrible health problems and after taking this stuff- had both her regular doctor and her holistic doctor convinced. They began recommending it to practically all of their patients! That’s how we found out about it- then, we asked our vet what she thought about it and she said it couldn’t hurt if we wanted to give it a try. So we gave Mary 4-6 TF capsules every day for several months until we couldn’t afford it anymore (it’s pricey!), then put her on a (cheaper) straight up colostrum about 2 months ago- it doesn’t have the added herbs, but we figure it’s better than nothing. Anywhos- this stuff really seems to help! After we put her on it, we noticed her energy levels went up- and even better- her white blood cell count was excellent- and stayed excellent throughout the duration of treatment. Even w/ treatment being over, we still give her 4 colostrums a day and 3 fish oil pills, just in case. I’ll let you know if she beats the odds and makes it longer than the 1 year they quoted us- I really, truly believe she will.

  • Tammy

    We’re very interested in Lisbeth’s homeopathic regimen as well! We’ve just had a hemangiopericytoma removed from our Golden/Chow mix and have decided to hold off on radiation for the moment in favor of pursuing a whole food diet integrated with supplements – some from Dr. Dressler’s book and some from an integrative vet specializing in Chinese medicine.
    I’m very interested to hear what worked for her – so that we possibly have other options to consider!

  • Annette

    Our dog is in the process of being diagnosed with lymphoma and we are devasated.. We don’t know what kind as of now. Any help or advise would be greatly appreciated.

  • Sylvia Groves

    Dear Dr Dressler,
    My dog (very fit, active and well for her age -14- spayed) had a mammary tumor removed 3 weeks ago. It was mixed cells, some benign, some cancer (2 types of malignancy)
    The vet said it had very distinct boundaries like a benign tumor in type, and so he could get excellent margins for removal, and got it all off her.
    He said there was no way of telling whether the cancers had time to metastasize or not, but on superficial inspection the nearest lymph nodes all seemed fine.
    It’s now a wait-and-see situation. If she develops more lumps in her breast tissue, they will be removed one by one. Although she tolerates surgery very well, the idea of doing a complete breast-strip on her was scary, so I opted for the wait and see method, and individual lump removals if or when they ever occurred.
    My question is, if the cancer HAD spread, would there be signs in her bloodwork? The vet told me her bloodwork was all excellent.
    Meanwhile, she runs around like a young ‘un, eats and sleeps well, has great energy.
    Also (a bit off topic I think) -are there any supplements I can give her, or herbal support for her immune system to help protect her?
    She is a great dog and a bit of a running miracle at her age! I want to do my best for her. I love her.

  • Colleen

    The cancer won’t always show up in bloodwork and urinalysis until it’s too late. We’ve had both done every 3 months for a few years and nothing every showed up in the tests. It was ultrasound that show an enlarged spleen because she was drooling and uncoordinated and we thought she had had another stroke. The vet decided to do the ultrasound on her abdomen and found the enlarged spleen and did a needle aspiration which showed Lymphoma. We had to euthanize her 5 days later because she wouldn’t eat, go outside, walk or anything. Her quality of life was going downhill rapidly. We got one chemo treatment in on Fri. and Sunday we had to euthanize her. She had started having petit mal seizures 10 months prior, gums were pale 5 months prior which I reported to the vet but they never did an ultrasound to investigate why. Bloodwork & urinalysis was fine. We have 2 other dogs at home and I’m going to ask about doing an ultrasound on their abdomens as a precaution because neither are acting right and I’m not sure if it’s because they are grieving still or what. It’s been 2 1/2 months since our other dog died. She was 14 1/2. I so miss our baby Kira.


  • Colleen

    I forgot to add this to the above paragraph: We had an MRI done of Kira’s brain 10 months prior to her death from Lymphoma because she had started having petite mal seizures. No tumor or cancer showed up in her brain at that time. Anemia was diagnosed 1 month prior to her death at the Animal ER but at the vets office the next day her bloodwork didn’t show anemia and was normal. 15 days prior to her death she was diagnosed with beginning stages of renal failure. We even had a horn-like growth on her leg that started to change colors biopsied and showed no cancer 4 months prior to her death. I would go for an ultrasound now. I hope this helps someone.


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