What are Ovarian Tumors?
Although veterinarians may disagree about whether oophorectomy or ovariohysterectomy are the best options to treat a dog with ovarian tumors, both are possibilities to potentially get rid of the tumors for good. Although ovarian tumors are rare in dogs, the possibility is still there, specifically for English Bulldogs, German Shepherds, and Yorkshire terriers.Ovarian tumors in canine can be broken down into three major types: skin/tissue (epithelial), sperm and ova (germ), and connective tissue (stromal). If you notice a fluid build-up, there's a chance your dog has been inflicted with the most popular tumor, ovarian, which will require surgical removal. In some cases, a malignant tumor that has spread will require chemotherapy until it is cured or put into remission.
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Symptoms of Ovarian Tumors in Dogs
In most cases, there are no symptoms leading up to the tumors unless they grow to be noticeably large. Hormonal dysfunction and carcinogenic fluid in the abdomen are two signs of tumors. Sex cord stromal tumors are reportedly most likely to grow larger.
Other notable signs include:
- Aplastic pancytopenia (red blood cells not developing correctly near bone marrow)
- Excessive infiltration of endometrium cells
- Lack of a “going into heat” period
- Loss of hair on the body and head (alopecia)
- Overproduction of steroid hormones (estrogen, progesterone)
- Persistent estrus
- Red discharge in the vulva
- Too much attention from other female dogs, primarily due to higher testosterone, which may make the dog give off male dog traits
- Uncomfortable with being petted or touched
- Vulvar enlargement
Although ovarian tumors are uncommon in dogs, epithelial tumors and sex cord stromal tumors are the primary results of a tumor diagnosis for 80 to 90 percent of all canine ovarian tumors.
Additional tumor types include:
- Germ cell tumors
- Mesenchymal tumors (primary ovarian hemangiosarcoma and fibromas)
Tumors appear to be most likely related to Boxers, English Bulldogs, German Shepherds, and Yorkshire terriers. The age ranges vary, as young as four years and as old as 16 years.
Causes of Ovarian Tumors in Dogs
Although ovarian cancer is not very common, it does tend to affect older dogs more often, especially dogs that have not been spayed already. Detecting symptoms in the early stages may help the dog avoid cancerous tumors spreading throughout the body. Unfortunately, not all tumors are obvious from just viewing the dog.
Diagnosis of Ovarian Tumors in Dogs
Considering the symptoms for tumors are not always as noticeable as other illnesses may be, here are common ways to recognize their size and whether they are benign or cancerous:
- Cytologic evaluation of abdominal or pleural effusions
- Histopathological exam - mandatory test used to examine resected tissue while radiographs look for signs of a teratoma and is mandatory
- Intravenous pyelography - used to examine renal masses from ovarian masses
- Thoracic radiographs - used to establish whether there are signs of metastasis
- Transabdominal needle biopsies - used to examine the ovaries
- Ultrasonography - helps in establishing the size of the tumors
- X-rays - used to examine the urinary system for ovarian masses, separate from potential renal masses
Because sex cord stromal tumors tend to grow larger, those are one of the more obvious to examine. Although any sign of a tumor will be acknowledged, small lesions are usually diagnosed as benign. It's the larger ones that alert a veterinarian to the possibility of cancer.
Treatment of Ovarian Tumors in Dogs
Although chemotherapy is an option, there is no standard protocol for whether chemotherapy should be used in each instance. Other treatment options include:
- Intracavitary administration of cisplastin - used to control malignant effusions
- Oophorectomy - an alternative to ovariohysterectomy, in which only the ovary/ovaries are removed
- Ovariohysterectomy - removing female dog's reproductive organs to get rid of ovarian tumors
Pet owners, specifically in North America, may find that some veterinarians will debate which way is the better treatment: oophorectomy or ovariohysterectomy. While both procedures are meant to remove tumors, one is a less common procedure. Uterine disease also becomes a topic of concern if only oophorectomy is completed.
There are both pros and cons of removing both ovaries in a female dog with ovarian tumors.
- Eliminates hormones (activin, estrogen, follistatin, inhibin, progesterone)
- Improve the survival rate after mammary cancer diagnosis
- Reproductive sterility
- Prevents genetic diseases (diabetes, epilepsy, demodecosis)
- Uterine neoplasia is still a possibility
Recovery of Ovarian Tumors in Dogs
If the entire growth is removed, then recovery time may be faster and less difficult. However, if the tumor goes untreated and continues to spread, then the more surgery needed, the longer it will take for the dog to recover afterward. Chemotherapy or radiation treatment are possibilities to get rid of and kill cancerous cells, so they don't return. Although antibiotics are recommended after the surgery, using antibiotics may lead to exposure of other illnesses, including:
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Skin irritation (allergies, hives, rashes)
- Yeast infections
Pet owners should ask for help in deciphering between side effects and a possible new illness, considering some of these side effects are also the same as what would happen from tumors.
The survival rate after removing tumors is estimated at four to six years.
Ovarian Tumors Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My Yorkies is 11 years old and just got spayed. They found a tumor on the ovary which they removed. What is your estimate of how much it should cost to have the tumor sent out to find out what kind it isn't?
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Our nine year old Yorky has enlarged glands at each side of her neck and on each side at the bottom of her stomach. She has been on an antibiotic and steroid for over a week and a half and still the glands are enlarged and she seems a bit lethargic. She also occassionally "humps" our other female Yorky and her toys.
Could this be a sign of ovarian tumors? Our vet said it would be quite costly to take her to an oncologist and we are on a very limited income because of our age, but, we love our little one very much and we have already spent over $500 trying to find out what her problem is because we really do not want to lose her.
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Hi i have a 9 year old moodle, once a week she has loosr stool with blood, very irritable noisy stomach (extremely loud), she has seizure like attacks that happens every once in a while and she has become very lethargic. She is painfull on the left side under her ribs where ive found a lump. Please help?
There are many different causes for the symptoms that you are describing and without a thorough examination I am unable to give you an indication of a possible cause. Tumours, skin masses, organ enlargement (especially liver and spleen) among other causes may all be attributing factors. This is something to have your Veterinarian look at sooner rather than later. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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what is the chances of survival after ovarian cancer in my dog. she has a large (4x5 inch) malignant tumor currently in the uterine area. She has been spayed. Our vet says this can only be removed by a vet specialist who says only certain vets can perform this surgery. The vet says chemo is not an option.
Any information will be appreciated, such as survival rate, what to expect if the dog does survive surgery.
A diagnosis of ovarian cancer is a vague one; there are different types of cancer with varying severity and symptoms; the origin cells of the mass, whether it is benign or malignant, metastasis and other factors will vary the prognosis. A malignant tumour is has a guarded prognosis; the problem with the surgery is whether there are adhesions with other organs as this can make a tumour difficult or impossible to remove. For better answers, speaking with an Oncologist would help and they would have a better idea of options for Willow. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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