Brain Tumors in Dogs
Brain tumors are not common. They tend to occur in middle-aged and older dogs. The highest incidence is found in the short-nosed breeds that have large-domed heads, including the Boxer, Bulldog, and Boston Terrier. Tumors that can metastasize to the brain include cancers of the mammary glands, prostate, and lungs, as well as hemangiosarcoma.
Symptoms depend on the tumor's location and rate of growth. Tumors in the cerebrum produce seizures and/or behavioral changes. The dog may exhibit a staggering gait, head tilt, nystagmus (rhythmic movement of the eyeballs), and limb weakness or paralysis. These signs are progressive and continue to worsen. Late signs are stupor and coma.
A brain abscess is a collection of pus in or around the brain. The signs are similar to those of a brain tumor. These dogs will often have a fever. There may be a prior infection in the oral cavity, inner ear, or respiratory tract.
Treatment: The diagnosis of tumor or abscess is made by neurological examination and special tests, including EEG, cerebrospinal fluid analysis, and CAT scan or MRI. Surgical removal of benign brain tumors may be possible in some cases. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy have not proven to be effective against most brain tumors in dogs. There may be temporary improvement with corticosteroids and anticonvulsants.
Abscesses are treated with high doses of antibiotics. Corticosteroids are usually contraindicated. The outlook for recovery is guarded.
This article is excerpted from “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” with permission from Wiley Publishing, Inc.
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