First of all, just to be sure: This is not medical advice. You should talk to a vet about your dog or if you want to get a dog.
Dogs are more than just pets; they are our family. Once you get a dog, you will naturally want to ensure your beloved companion stays healthy and lives long. But as a pet owner, it is important that you know about the most common health conditions dogs face. One of these health problems is cancer.
If you are wondering whether your dog is prone to cancer, you are not alone. As a Westie owner, this question also crossed my mind and I went on to seek answers.
And I am here to share with you the West Highland White Terrier-related health issues that your furry friend can encounter, including cancer.
The answer to whether Westies are prone to cancer is: Westies can develop cancer just like every other dog breed. Out of all the different types of cancer a Westie can develop, they have a higher likelihood of developing bladder cancer.
What is the Primary Factor that Contributes to Cancer?
The main reason behind cancer in Westies is their genetic makeup. Westies are at a higher risk of getting urinary bladder cancer, including kidney disorders.
How Can You Prevent Bladder Cancer?
Unfortunately, the symptoms of bladder cancer often go unnoticed in the early stages. In most of the cases that I found during my research, the tumor already progresses by the time a vet diagnoses Westies with bladder cancer. I wanted to know why that is, so I learned more about this health issue, its symptoms and treatment options.
What’s the reason?
The symptoms of bladder cancer are eerily similar to the symptoms of urinary tract infection. Therefore, Westie owners tend to confuse the two. When Sami exhibited symptoms of urinary tract infection, I took him to the vet.
My vet examined him and fortunately, if you can say so, Sami just had urinary tract infection (struvite crystals). Keep an eye on your Westie. If he displays any symptoms of health issues that could put his health at risk, you should take him to the vet immediately.
5 Westie Cancer Symptoms
Here are the most common signs of bladder cancer in Westies:
- Frequent urination, urinating in small quantities
- Blood in urine or discolored urine
- Discomfort or difficulty while urinating
- Pooping accidentally in the house
- Recurring urinary tract infection
4 Factors that Make Your Westie More Prone to Bladder Cancer
Your Westie’s genetic blueprint is one of the key causes of bladder cancer, but it isn’t the only factor involved. The other factors that can increase their risk of bladder cancer include:
Do you live near lawns that use several types of herbicides and pesticides? If you do, your Westie may develop bladder cancer. I read a study where researchers showed a close link between herbicides and pesticides and bladder cancer.
If you or more than one person in your house smoke, your Westie can be more vulnerable to bladder cancer as second-hand smoking also affects pets.
2. Bacterial Infection
Bacterial bartonella may cause bartonellosis, which is spread by ticks, fleas, and lice. These bacteria can lead to cancerous mutations by changing the transitioning lining inside the dog’s urinary tract.
Just as adults need to stay fit and healthy to reduce their risk of medical conditions, so do dogs. If your Westie is overweight, it may increase the risk of developing bladder cancer. Therefore, I make sure that Sami gets the required amount of exercise. I take him out to the park and the beach where he can run free.
As we age, our chances of developing medical conditions increases and the same goes for your Westie. As your Westie gets older, his risk of developing bladder cancer will increase. When Sami turns 6, I will have to become extra vigilant because Westies are prone to bladder cancer around the age of 6 to 8 years. If your Westie is 6 and older, I want you to observe his behavior more closely to check for signs of the disease.
Potential Treatments for Bladder Cancer
If your Westie develops bladder cancer, and I hope he never does, the vet will probably mention these treatments:
- Radiation– When the tumor is small, the vet will use radiation therapy. The number of times your dog will have to undergo radiation therapy depends on the severity and size of the tumor.
- Chemotherapy– The vet will administer drugs, which are similar to the ones used in chemotherapy for humans. The severity and size of the tumor depends on the frequency and duration of the treatment as well as your Westie’s response and tolerance to the drugs.
- Surgery – The vet will remove the tumor from your Westie’s bladder. If the cancer is aggressive, the vet will recommend removing the entire bladder.
- Medications– The vet will prescribe anti-inflammatory and antibiotics for your Westie. Your Westie may take the meds along with the other treatment options he’s undergoing.
- SupportiveCare – The vet may recommend this treatment to be taken alongside another treatment. The vet may recommend catheterization if your Westie is experiencing difficulty urinating.
Is There Something You Can Do to Prevent Bladder Cancer?
Here are the preventative measures I take to lower Sami’s risk of getting bladder cancer:
- I keep him away from smoke, pesticides, insecticides, and other chemicals.
- I feed him a healthy diet and you can ask your vet to recommend you a diet for your Westie.
- I take him out for walks daily and check his weight each month to ensure it falls under the healthy category.
- I take care of his teeth by maintaining a good dental hygiene routine.
- I keep a lookout for any signs of physical distress. If you spot any signs, get your pet checked out immediately.
- I take him to the vet for a routine medical checkup every 2-3 months or whenever necessary.
Just as I take these prevention measures with Sami, you should start taking them with your Westie if you haven’t already. You can lower your pet’s risk of bladder cancer by staying vigilant to the signs of bladder cancer.