What Is Pancreatic Cancers In Dogs
Cancer of the pancreas is the second commonest gastrointestinal neoplasm. The pancreas has both functions – exocrine and endocrine . Pancreatic cancers are either exocrine or neuroendocrine tumors.
Exocrine Tumors: More than 90% of pancreatic cancers are exocrine. They are usually aggressive and spread to nearby tissues as well as to the other organs throughout the dogs body. The most common type of pancreatic cancer is adenocarcinoma. The exocrine portions of the pancreas are where 95% of malignant neoplasms arise and this exhibit features comparable with adenocarcinoma.
Neuroendocrine Tumors: Their incidence is Less than 10% and they often grow slower than exocrine tumors .
In spite of its low occurrence when compared to other more common malignancies , pancreatic cancer is one of the leading causes of death in dogs.
Similar to other types of cancer, pancreatic cancer usually affects older dogs . There is no gender or breed disposition, but female dogs are found to be at higher risk than others.
The Roles Of Your Dog’s Pancreas
Your dog’s pancreas is found near the start of your pup’s small intestine. This essential part of the body produces two key cells with important functions that help to keep your pup healthy.
Pancreatic Exocrine Cells
- The exocrine cells within your dog’s pancreas work to produce enzymes that help to digest food.
Pancreatic Endocrine Cells
- The endocrine cells are responsible for the production of insulin and other hormones which either directly or indirectly affect the functioning of almost every organ in your dog’s body.
Symptoms Of Canine Pancreatic Cancer
Many symptoms of pancreatic cancer in dogs are non-specific. Therefore, it is difficult to tell if a dog showing the symptoms has pancreatic cancer or other benign pancreatic disease.
For example, a dog with pancreatic cancer may show signs such as:
Sometimes a dog with pancreatic cancer may also have pancreatitis .
In extreme cases, the dog may also show signs of pancreatic insufficiency. Pancreatic insufficiency means that the pancreas cannot produce enough amounts of enzymes to digest foods properly .
As a result, the dog is literally starving as he is not getting enough nutrients from the foods. Over time, the dog becomes weak, suffers from organ failure, and finally dies.
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Additional Facts For Pancreatic Cancers In Dogs
As with other forms of cancer, any definitive causation of pancreatic cancers is not yet identified.
It is alleged that there is a genetic component linked to the odds of this cancer occurring, supported by higher incidence in certain breeds.
A. Exocrine Tumors: They represent more than 90% of pancreatic neoplasms.
Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma: Most prevalent exocrine tumor. Also called also known as ductal carcinoma, it typically starts in the ducts where pancreatic enzymes travel to reach the small intestine.
There are other types of exocrine tumors that are rare and account for < 4 percent of exocrine tumors:
Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors : NETs originate from the endocrine portion of the pancreas. They are less prevalent than exocrine tumors. The gland secretes cells that help your body regulate blood sugar levels.
Types of NETs:
- Functional NETs: Functioning pNETs cause the pancreas to produce surplus digestive hormones – insulin, glucagon, and gastrin .
- Nonfunctional NETs: They are the largest group of pNETs and they do not produce excess enough hormones to cause symptoms rather, they cause mortality and morbidity by metastasizing.
- Carcinoid Tumors: They are called cancer in slow motion as the dogs may have it for a long time without any symptoms. They arise from enterochromaffin cells dispersed throughout the bronchopulmonary and gastrointestinal systems.
T1 – 2cm or less in any direction.
This stage is split into 3 stages:
Signs Of Insulinomas In Dogs
Insulinomas cause the pancreas to produce more insulin and lowers the blood sugar. Some of the symptoms of this type of tumor include:
If you notice anything wrong with your pup – his behavior has changed, he seems tired or sick, make sure you take him in for a checkup right away! Some of the symptoms listed above are also signs of other illnesses, and the sooner you can receive a diagnosis and start treatment, the better the chances of recovery.
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Pancreatic Cancer’s Sneaky Symptoms
In a very small number of people with pancreatic cancer, early symptoms might be present that could lead to an earlier diagnosis. Unfortunately, researchers have been unable to identify any predictable pattern.
The rarity and vagueness of these situations point out the difficulty of using early symptoms to catch pancreatic cancer.
That said, symptoms like unintentional weight loss, persistent loss of appetite, yellowing of the eyes or skin, dark urine, or light-colored stools should always prompt concern. Persistent or worsening discomfort, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea are also disconcerting. If you feel something’s not right, see your doctor.
Can Pancreatitis Be Treated
There is no cure for pancreatitis, but it can be treated with careful monitoring and supportive medical care. For instance, medications may be used to reduce nausea, control vomiting, and manage abdominal pain.
Intravenous fluids might be needed if the dog is dehydrated. In some severe cases where a dog is vomiting uncontrollably, food and water may be restricted for a few days so that the pancreas can rest and begin to heal itself.
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What Is Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma In Dogs
The pancreas is located on the right side of a dogs abdomen close to the end of the stomach and the beginning of the small intestine. The pancreas is responsible for producing hormones as well as digestive enzymes that help to break down food during the digestion process.
The second most common type of pancreatic cancer in dogs, after insulinomas, is pancreatic adenocarcinoma. An adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer that originates in the glands that produce digestive enzymes. Pancreatic cancer in dogs is typically an aggressive form of cancer that progresses rapidly and easily spreads to other organs, including:
Recovery And Management Of Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma In Dogs
The prognosis for pancreatic adenocarcinomas is typically poor. Supportive care is recommended until the dogs quality of life is adversely impacted. At that point, humane euthanasia may be recommended. Your vet will be able to determine a medical management plan that works best for your dog depending on their diagnosis.
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Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms: Location Matters
Initially, pancreatic cancer tends to be silent and painless as it grows. By the time it’s large enough to cause symptoms, pancreatic cancer has generally grown outside the pancreas. Because of the location of the pancreas in the body, symptoms include:
- Jaundice. As pancreatic cancer blocks the duct that releases bile into the intestine , the ingredients of bile build up in the blood. This turns the skin and the eyes yellow, a condition called jaundice. The same blockage causes dark urine, light colored stools, and itching.
- Abdominal pain. Pancreatic cancer can cause a dull ache in the upper abdomen radiating to the back. The pain may come and go.
- Bloating. Some people with pancreatic cancer have a sense of early fullness with meals or an uncomfortable swelling in the abdomen.
In general, symptoms appear earlier from cancers in the head of the pancreas, compared to those in the body and tail. Keep in mind that having any or all of these symptoms doesnât mean a person has pancreatic cancer. There are many other causes for these types of symptoms.
How Does A Vet Diagnose Pancreatitis In Dogs
- Your dogs medical history
- Blood tests to measure pancreatic enzymes
- Physical examination including stomach, gums, heart, temperature
- Radiographs or ultrasound, to rule out other causes
- Fine needle aspiration of the pancreas
As the Merck Veterinary Manual notes, as with any disease, no test should be used in isolation for diagnosis, and all clinical findings should be used in conjunction to arrive at the most appropriate diagnosis.
Diagnosis Of Pancreatic Cancer In Dogs
Diagnosis of insulinoma often begins after the dog has exhibited several symptoms consistent with the disease. Your veterinarian will likely request that a blood sample be taken to examine the glucose levels. If low glucose levels are found, your veterinarian may want to continue to test for insulinoma and monitoring the dogs glucose levels. To do so, they will likely order multiple blood samples – particularly ones where the dog is fasting and not fasting to see if there is persistent hypoglycemia. Additional tests for amended insulin:glucose ratio may be performed, particularly if the dogs insulin levels are on the lower end but still considered to be relatively normal. Your veterinarian will also make sure to rule out any other diseases that could be causing the symptoms or changes in glucose levels during this time. In additional to blood tests, diagnostic imaging may also be utilized to determine the presence of a tumor, along with its possible size . Unfortunately, the most effective way of diagnosing insulinoma is visualization of the tumor during abdominal surgery, during which the surgeon will examine the organ for any growths. However, if the veterinarian does not feel comfortable putting the dog through surgery , they will likely begin treatment without direct visualization of the tumors.
Dehydration And Pancreatitis In Dogs
Dehydration is due to a greater fluid loss than fluid intake. Diarrhea or vomiting can cause dehydration, but those signs together will cause a greater fluid deficit and dehydration because the dogs fluid input cannot keep up with the fluid losses. If the diarrhea becomes bloody, the condition worsens and the dehydration can become an emergency.
Other factors such as fever require increase fluid intake and can lead to dehydration along with other metabolic issues such as kidney disease, etc.
Blood in a dogs stool indicates a loos and significant inflammatory response requiring a veterinarians attention but it can be cause by a multitude of factors, from ulceration to parasites. Dehydration is a serious condition that can lead to death. It is an emergency and requires immediate veterinary care.
Any lethargic dog who is not drinking water or cannot hold water down should be suspect of dehydration and examined by a veterinarian. Dry mucous membranes may be a quick way of assessing dehydration but as always, when in doubt, consult with your veterinarian.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Pancreatitis In Dogs
The signs of pancreatitis can be mistaken for other ailments. The most common symptoms include loss of appetite, vomiting, weakness, diarrhea, pain, or swelling in the abdominal area, dehydration, and fever. Dogs with pancreatitis may also hunch their backs or push their rear end up in the air and their head down on the floor.
If you suspect your dog has pancreatitis, remember to stay calm. Dogs have a remarkable ability to pick up on our emotional states, and they may become more anxious if they sense that you’re upset. You should also be careful when handling your dog. Even the friendliest of dogs can lash out if they’re scared and in pain.
Be sure to contact your veterinarian at the first signs of pancreatitis so you can get your dog the medical attention they need. Early intervention can also help prevent complications.
Veterinarians tend to see an increase in pancreatitis around the holidays when dogs may be offered table scraps from family dinners. Get tips on holiday pet safety.
Is Pancreatic Tumors In Dogs Painful
Yes, pancreatic cancer in dogs can be excruciating, especially in the later stages. Benign pancreatic tumors are less likely to cause pain, but they are sporadic in dogs.
Malignant pancreatic tumors, on the other hand, often cause pain. Even if the tumor is not painful on its own, its secondary effects can cause pain.
For example, pancreatic cancer can spread to the bones and cause pain in the limbs during movement. Fluid buildup in the pancreas or liver can cause abdominal pain.
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What Is A Pancreatic Tumor
A pancreatic tumor is an abnormal proliferation and dysregulated replication of cells within the pancreas. There are two groups of pancreatic tumors: exocrine tumors, that originate from exocrine cells, and endocrine tumors, that originate from endocrine cells.
Of the exocrine tumors, there are 2 types: benign adenomas and malignant adenocarcinomas . Adenocarcinomas are much more common than adenomas, but both are rare in dogs and cats.
“Altogether, the most common pancreatic cancer in dogs and cats are insulinomas, followed by adenocarcinomas.”
Of the endocrine tumors, there are 3 types: insulinomas, gastrinomas, and glucagonomas. All 3 are cancerous or malignant . The most common is the insulinoma, followed by the gastrinoma and the glucaconoma . These tumors are also rare in dogs and cats.
Altogether, the most common pancreatic cancer in dogs and cats are insulinomas, followed by adenocarcinomas. Both of these tumors are more common in dogs than cats.
What Causes Pancreatic Tumors
The reason why a particular pet may develop this, or any tumor or cancer, is not straightforward. Very few tumors and cancers have a single known cause. Most seem to be caused by a complex mix of risk factors, some environmental and some genetic or hereditary. Insulinomas are more commonly seen in large breed dogs, such as Irish Setters, Boxers, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds, and also in Fox Terriers. They also appear to be more common in Siamese cats and male cats. With adenocarcinomas, Airedale Terriers may be at increased risk. Cats with diabetes mellitus may also be at increased risk. Both cancers are more common in middle-aged to older dogs and older cats.
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Diagnosing Canine Pancreatic Cancer
Your vet will use blood tests to check for pancreatic cancer. He’ll be looking for low levels of blood sugar, combined with anemia, increased white blood cells counts, and increased levels of bilirubin in the blood. X-rays and ultrasounds can help your vet confirm the presence of tumors and evaluate the extent of their spread to other organs. Biopsy samples will often be necessary to confirm that the tumors are cancerous, since benign pancreatic tumors are also fairly common.
How Veterinarians Diagnose Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma In Dogs
Veterinarians can use multiple diagnostic methods to diagnose pancreatic adenocarcinoma.
Blood work may show abnormalities in liver or kidney values, signs of anemia, dehydration, and elevated white blood cells. Imaging techniques including radiography, ultrasonography, or CT scanning can be used to visualize a pancreatic mass .
If a tumor is detected, it can be tested for cancer using cytology or histopathology .
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Benign And Malignant Tumors In Dogs
When a tumor affects a dog or puppy they are categorized as being benign or malignant. A benign tumor is slow growing and will normally be self contained staying in the same area . A benign tumor is often far easier to remove through surgery and is far less threatening to your dogs life than a malignant neoplasm .
A malignant tumor is fast growing and will infect and invade healthy body tissue it can also spread to other areas where they will cause secondary tumors. This form of cancer is very dangerous to dogs and puppies and needs to be diagnosed quickly . Surgery will need to be undertaken to remove the growths and if the organs have been badly affected they may need to be removed or operated on too.
Treating Canine Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to treat, especially because the cancer often reaches its later stages before symptoms appear and a diagnosis is made. Most vets use surgical tumor removal as a standard treatment, but these tumors often grow back, since it’s difficult to remove all of the cancerous tissue from the pancreas. Pancreatic cancer also spreads so quickly that other organs are usually affected by the time a diagnosis is made.
Your vet may recommend chemotherapy or radiation therapy to help slow or stop the growth of pancreatic cancer, or to keep the cancer from returning after surgery. These treatments have not been shown to be terribly efficient in treating canine pancreatic cancer. The prognosis for canine pancreatic cancer is very poor.
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Symptoms Of Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma In Dogs
Symptoms of pancreatic adenocarcinoma are generally vague and are most commonly associated with gastrointestinal upset and decreases in overall energy and appetite.
Tumors of the pancreas may grow large enough, or in the appropriate region, to obstruct the common bile duct of the liver. The common bile duct carries bile from the liver and gall bladder by way of the pancreas to the intestines. Interference of this anatomy can lead to a gall bladder obstruction and signs of liver disease.
Metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma will also cause symptoms that are associated with the body systems that it spreads to.
Other symptoms may include:
Gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or development of an abdominal mass
Increased thirst and urination
Changes in mentation
Common Tumors Of The Pancreas
Pancreatic tumors and cancer are described as the abnormal proliferation of unregulated cells in the pancreas. There are generally two groups of pancreatic tumors – differentiated by the cells from which the tumors originate, namely exocrine pancreatic tumors and endocrine pancreatic tumors.
Exocrine pancreatic tumors have 2 types: adenomas and adenocarcinomas. Adenomas are benign tumors, while adenocarcinomas are malignant and can spread to other organ systems and tissues.
Endocrine pancreatic tumors, on the other hand, are divided into 3 types depending on the specific hormone-producing cells they originated from. Insulinomas are active pancreatic tumors that produce excessive insulin. The other two endocrine pancreatic tumors are gastrinomas and glucagonomas, originating from cells producing gastrin and glucagon respectively.
All three endocrine pancreatic tumors are malignant in nature and can spread to different organs in the dogs body. The prognosis is generally worse for malignant pancreatic tumors compared to benign ones, and clinical signs associated with the disease depend on the specific pancreatic tumor present.
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