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What is Tumors of the Vagina?
Tumors of the vagina and vulva are the second most common form of reproductive tumors in female dogs. Unspayed female dogs are more likely to develop these tumors.
Tumors of the vagina are the second most common form of female reproductive tumor and can be either benign or malignant. Most vaginal lesions or tumors are non-cancerous leiomyomas or fibroleiomyomas, but certain malignant cancers can develop in the skin of the vagina as well so it is important to alert your veterinarian if you see signs of a tumor on or in your dog’s vagina. Canine transmissible venereal tumors, a type of cancerous canine tumor that can be spread from dog to dog by touch, can form in this area as well.
Symptoms of Tumors of the Vagina in Dogs
Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina which can result in discharge, itching and pain. This inflammation can occur separately or concurrently with vaginal tumors.
- Blood in the urine
- Difficulty giving birth
- Excessive licking of genital area
- Mass on the vagina (either visible or palpable)
- Straining to urinate
- Vaginal discharge
- Vaginal odor
- Vulvar bleeding
There are many types of tumors that can affect the vagina and vulvar area on dogs, both benign and malignant. The most common tumors to affect the vagina are leiomyomas and fibroleiomyomas, benign tumors of the smooth muscle that generally do not spread. Fibropapillomas, small bumps that are caused by a viral infection, may also develop in this area. They tend to look similar to other tumors in this area, however they often regress spontaneously after a few months. Malignant tumors are rarer, but squamous cell carcinomas may also develop on the skin in this area, and clitoral adenocarcinoma may affect your canine’s clitoris. Canine transmissible venereal tumors are cauliflower-like, nodular or papillary and can also affect the genital area. They are often inflamed and ulcerated, making it quite contagious particularly if direct contact has occurred during mating, licking or rough play.
Causes of Tumors of the Vagina in Dogs
The causes of most cancers can be somewhat ambiguous although there are some things can increase the likelihood for cancers to develop.
- Advanced age
- Exposure to chemicals
- Radiation exposure
There is a hormonal component to most vaginal tumors. The overwhelming majority of females that develop tumors in the vagina are unspayed, however tumors that do occur in spayed females have a higher incidence of being malignant. The exception to that rule in this group are the canine transmissible venereal tumors (CTVT). These tumors are actually a contagious canine cancer. It is transmissible by direct contact such as the type that is made during mating, licking or rough play. Generally, your canine’s immune system would recognize and eliminate cells from an outside source such as this, however when CTVT cells are introduced a state of rapid growth of the cancer cells begins and will last between three and nine months. Although CTVT is found worldwide, it is more prevalent in tropical and subtropical urban environments.
Diagnosis of Tumors of the Vagina in Dogs
Initially, your veterinarian will need to get a full medical history of your pet as well as perform a physical examination, including a close examination of the tumors and the area surrounding them. A tissue sample will also be obtained so that it can be examined microscopically, as well as samples of any discharge from the vagina. A complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis will also be requested to reveal any underlying or concurrent medical issues. Most of these growths are fairly simple to identify once the sample is viewed microscopically. To determine if there are other tumors or if metastases might have developed your veterinarian may choose to perform a vaginoscopy. X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scans or may be used to ascertain if any tumors have spread further, and further analysis may be done in the lab to get more information from the tissue sample. If metastasis is suspected your veterinarian may want to biopsy the lymph nodes as well.
Treatment of Tumors of the Vagina in Dogs
Ovariohysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries, is the treatment of choice in these cases, as well as the removal of the tumor itself. This generally reduces the risk of more tumors forming due to hormonal means as well as allowing for the examination of the abdominal organs to check more clearly for metastasis. Surgery is completely curative for a majority of benign vaginal tumors as the metastatic rate is low. In the event that a benign tumor becomes metastatic more aggressive steps may be required to prevent reoccurrence. Radiation therapy may be recommended to prevent future growth or spread of the tumors.
Malignant tumors of any type in this area will be treated aggressively. A radical vulvovaginectomy or perineal urethrostomy will be done to remove all possible cancerous tissue. Once the surgeon has removed all that he or she physically can, radiation and chemotherapy will be utilized in an attempt to destroy any new or hidden cancer cells as well as to prevent recurrence. Dogs are more tolerant of chemotherapy than most humans and only around 5% need hospitalization from the treatment itself. Although there is less reported hair loss in dogs than in people some breeds (English Sheepdog, Lhasa Apso, Maltese, Schnauzer, Shih Tzu, and Poodle) are more prone to hair loss than others.
Recovery of Tumors of the Vagina in Dogs
Complications from chemotherapy can arise, so your veterinarian will probably want to do regular checks on your dog’s liver and kidney enzyme levels. Pets are often sent home the same day after chemotherapy, and although most of the drug is metabolized within just a few hours, some remnants of it can remain in the blood for a few days. It is important to use gloves when dealing with bodily fluids and maintain good hand washing hygiene. Children, pregnant and nursing women and immunocompromised adults should avoid contact with the bodily fluids during that time. Your pet should be monitored closely for additional tumors during and after their chemotherapy treatments.
Cost of Tumors of the Vagina in Dogs
Tumors of the Vagina can be an expensive treatment in dogs and can range from $3000.00 to $15000.00 depending on the cost of living and severity of your Dog's tumors of the vagina. On average, the national cost of treating tumors of the vagina in dogs is $7500.00.
Tumors of the Vagina in Dogs Treatment Advice
Tumors of the Vagina Questions and Advice
We adopted a 8 year old German shepherd that is a retired narcotics dog, due to her work she was never fixed. Before we had the chance to spay her she developed pyometra. In the process of diagnosing the pyometra the vet found a palpable tumor of a significant size on her vaginal wall. I along with the vet had hoped that it was a leimyoma or something in that family, and that the surgery for the pyometra would solve the issue with the removal of both her uterus and ovaries. Her recovery from the spay with overy removal went very smoothly with no complications and she recovered quickly with only her acting a bit more depressed but I associated that with the hormonal changes and with her still recovering. Three weeks post op she started vomiting but still has a appetite (unlike with the pyometra when she refused to eat). When I took her back to the vet to get to the bottom of the vomiting the vet found that the tumor has gotten significantly larger. Large enough that she can no longer get past the tumor in a vaginal exam, and now the vaginal wall feels "firm" with a digital anal exam and that if feels like she has a "enlarged prostate"(vets words) even though she obviously doesn't have one. I've asked the vet about doing a biopsy but she fears doing one on something she "can't get her hands on" if it happens to be vascular, and that if it happens to start bleeding that she won't be able to stop it. We live in a fairly small town and this is a first for my vet. Especially because of my dogs service, and because we now love her to pieces, we want to get her the best care possible without putting ourselves in the poorhouse by having to guess as to what needs to be done and having to pay hundreds of dollars of consultation fees for vet after vet to tell us they can't help either. I'm wondering what the next step (s) would be so I know what to ask the new veterinary clinic if they are capable of doing. Also I was wondering what type of prognosis a dog in this type of situation might have? I would rather her have a quality retirement over quantity and her having a wonderful happy retirement (however long it may last) is much more important than us holding on for our own selfish reasons. I thank you for any guidance you may be able to give us.
The main question here is the prognosis and quality of life she can expect to have; this question is a difficult one as the type of tumour / mass present will have a bearing on the prognosis. If the mass has grown this fast in a short time frame, it would be best to try and have it removed before it starts to cause extra luminal obstruction of the rectum and urethra. There are no real questions to ask apart from are they comfortable to operate on the mass; ultrasound may be a useful tool to determine the contents (i.e: solid vs liquid); a biopsy is risky in that area, so surgical removal with post surgery histopathology would be your best bet. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Thank you very much. It has been all so overwhelming with so much happening so fast. I appreciate the advice and now can cut to the chase and work on finding a vet that is comfortable performing the surgery and work on finding the funds to pay it since her pyometra surgery took a significant chunk of my savings. Hopefully since she served to help better the community for 7 years the community will help in bettering her retirement.
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My female dog has vulvar tumor
The precise location of the tumour (whether it is from the genital tract or in the skin surrounding the vulva) will give an indication to the type of tumour present. Leiomyoma’s are the most common type of tumour in the vulva (as well as the vagina and uterus); Leiomyoma’s are benign tumours originating from smooth muscle and are usually easily removed during surgery. Mast Cell Tumours are common tumours of the skin surrounding the vulva, perineum and anus; Mast Cell Tumours originate from the Mast Cells in connective tissue and can spread to local lymph node and other organs. There are other types of tumour, but they are less common. A visit to your Veterinarian will result in an examination (which may include a fine needle aspirate to determine the type of tumour) and surgery to remove the tumour. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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The statements expressed are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified by your local veterinarian.