How Long Can a Dog Live with Bladder Cancer?

how long does a dog live with bladder cancer

Being told that your dog has cancer is something that no pet owner ever wants to hear. It can be a terrifying and uncertain experience, with many questions that you need to ask and need answers for.

One of the most obvious ones, is wanting to know how your dog can survive with bladder cancer. Now, it will vary from dog to dog, but there are some generalizations you can make, so here’s the short answer, followed by more detail.

How long can a dog live with bladder cancer? Some dogs can live for 6 to 12 months with bladder cancer. Providing it is diagnosed early enough, some dogs can benefit from cancer treatment, with their life expectancy sometimes being extended by a further 6 months.

How long dogs can live with a bladder cancer diagnosis

Once you know how long your dog might live and survive with bladder cancer, you can start to provide the best environment for them.

There are many forms of cancers in dogs, varying from the relatively benign, to the more serious. Sadly, bladder cancer usually falls into the latter category.

The most common form of bladder cancer in dogs is called transitional cell carcinoma and is also known as urothelial carcinoma.

Transitional cell carcinoma (or TCC) is a particularly nasty form of tumor that usually develops in the higher neck of the bladder, and due to this, it can often prove to be impossible to remove by veterinary surgeons.

If untreatable, TCC can metastasize, spreading to other areas in the dog; such as their bones, kidneys, or spleen.

In view of this, the long-term prognosis on survival and the life expectancy for most dogs with bladder cancer or TCC is not good. Life expectancy can be very low, with most dogs living around 4 to 6 months after diagnosis, sometimes up to 12 months.

Despite this, some dogs do benefit from cancer treatment, and many can live for up to 6 months longer than diagnosis compared to dogs that do not have treatment.

Therefore, a glimmer of light can be offered to owners who are going through this type of ordeal with their dog. However, cancer is not always so straightforward, and it is not always possible to accurately predict how long a dog will survive with bladder cancer.

Some breeds may survive longer than others, and at times, existing health factors can often play a role too.

What causes bladder cancer in dogs?

The exact reason why bladder cancer arises in dogs is not entirely known. However, it is clear that some breeds are more likely to develop it than others.

In fact, there is evidence to show that certain breeds are genetically predisposed to the condition, and because of this, they are way more likely to develop it when compared to other dogs. It is not entirely clear why this is the case; however, years of breeding could possibly play a role to some extent.

For example, Scottish Terriers have an 18-fold increased risk of bladder cancer compared to other breeds, whilst Shetland Sheepdogs and Beagles have a 4-fold increased risk.

On the lower end of the scale, Wire Hair Fox Terriers and West Highland Terriers both have a 3-fold increased risk of developing the disease.

If you own one of these breeds it is important to realize that there is a risk that they could develop bladder cancer as they get older, and you should keep an eye out for the warning signs (later in the article, I will explain what these signs are).

Additionally, testing has identified several other dog breeds that could be at risk as well. Australian Shepherds, Bichon Frise, Border Collie’s, Russel Terriers, and Lhasa Apsos also seem to develop bladder cancer more often than other breeds.

However, further testing is needed to determine how common this is compared to the other dog breeds we have mentioned.

There are other factors that play a role in why dogs could develop bladder cancer, too.

For example, obesity in smaller breeds seems to increase the likelihood of this happening, as well as exposure to pesticides and other dangerous chemicals (like insecticides) which are commonly found in and around dog walking areas.

Handy Hint: If you are using chemicals on your lawn, here’s how long you need to wait before you let your dog back onto the grass.

Furthermore, the presence of secondhand smoke around dogs could increase the chance of them developing not only bladder but other forms of cancer as well.

Because of this, it is a good idea to refrain from smoking around any dogs or pets in the home, especially if they belong to one of the genetically predisposed breeds.

Lastly, if bladder cancer runs in a dog’s family history, then there is, of course, a much higher chance that they will develop it compared to other dogs.

However, if you know this is the case, you have an advantage of being able to take your dog for regular check-ups at the vet. For some owners, this can be both a blessing and a curse.

Finding out your dog is predisposed to this form of cancer can be scary but also beneficial in terms of preparing yourself for the worst.

It is worth noting, however, that even if bladder cancer runs in your dog’s line, there is no guarantee that they will develop it. In fact, many dogs live a long life regardless of how likely they are to develop the disease.

What are the symptoms of bladder cancer in dogs?

Knowing the symptoms of bladder cancer can help you to detect the disease early, should you think your dog has it. Often, the signs are very similar to urinary tract infections, and these usually take the form of such things such as frequent urination, incontinence, and traces of blood in their urine.

Also, your dog may experience pain while urinating and could yelp or show other signs of distress as well. Some dogs may even be unable to urinate if their tumor is large enough, which is a sad thing to think about.

In the earliest stages of bladder cancer, most dogs will show redness around their genitals combined with constant licking at or around these areas.

Additionally, dogs might begin to lose their appetite and go off their food, which can be a good indicator something unusual is going on. This is especially true for dogs who love their food; therefore, this symptom should not be ignored even if it does not seem to be problematic at the time.

In the later stages of the disease, dogs will continue to show all of the symptoms mentioned above. However, they will now be more persistent and will be joined by other more serious symptoms.

They may begin to become reclusive, hiding away or refusing to come out from under the bed, and might even refuse to go on walks when prompted.

Furthermore, dogs may begin to vomit or show signs of weight loss, or have trouble sitting or walking.

Constant pacing is another serious sign and can be noticed alongside constipation or visible skin irritation around the genitals.

If any of these symptoms become noticeable, then a trip to the vet is needed as soon as possible.

Likewise, if you notice that a dog is having difficulty breathing, or is showing any other serious signs such as – uncontrollable vomiting, collapsing, external bleeding, prolonged seizures or crying out in pain – you should immediately see a vet, as it is likely to be a serious emergency.

How do you care for a dog with bladder cancer?

If the worst has happened and your dog has been diagnosed with bladder cancer, knowing how to comfort them and provide them with the best care and love during this time can help you to feel a little less down (even if it is only marginally).

First and foremost, the best way to care for your dog is by following your veterinarian’s advice. They know best and should always be listened to over any other sources (such as this one).

Asking them questions, such as how you can make your dog comfortable, or what activities they can still do, can go a long way in helping you provide the best care for your pooch.

And of course, they should be able to more accurately tell you how long your dog has to live with bladder cancer, with a more specific estimate on life expectancy.

Depending on how your dog feels, you could still try to play with them. Low stress activities can be a good way to help a dog enjoy themselves without putting them in any danger. These activities can consist of things such as playing fetch over a small area, or a gentle game of tug-of-war.

Most dogs need a purpose, and even when they are poorly, it is vital to remember how important play is to them.

However, if you notice any signs of fatigue or pain in your dog when playing, you should stop immediately.

Likewise, you should listen to your vet if they recommend no play or exercise.

Lastly, there are a few other things you can do to help your dog feel more comfortable. If they are struggling to walk you could alleviate a little bit of their discomfort by buying them a doggy “wheelchair”, and this could allow them to still have fun whilst putting less strain on their body.

Additionally, you could move all of their favorite toys and essential items into one easily accessible area for their comfort.


Unfortunately, just like humans, dogs have a high chance of developing bladder cancer, especially as they get older.

And although it is scary, understanding how different types of cancer can affect your dog will help you to be prepared should this happen.

Above all, please do talk to your vet.

They will be able to help prepare you for your dog’s life expectancy with bladder cancer, so you know what’s around the corner.

You might also like…

Image in header via

Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

Recent Posts