Symptoms and Types
You may observe a red, tumorous mass bulging out of the surface membrane of the vagina or on the penis. The tissue mass may break off upon manipulation. Blood drops may also be observed dripping from the vagina or penile foreskin. The dog will usually lick the affected area with frequency.
This condition is the result of direct contact with tumour cells from a diseased animal. It is transmitted through the act of sex and can also be transmitted by oral contact. Intact, free-roaming dogs are at greater risk of acquiring and spreading this disease.
Your attending veterinarian will need a complete health history, with as much information as possible regarding when the symptoms began, how much freedom your dog has to roam freely or whether there are other dogs that roam the area, and if you have been attempting to breed your dog, etc.
The physical examination will focus especially on your dog’s genital organs. A tissue sample of the mass will need to be taken for biopsy, and fluid samples will be taken for the standard laboratory tests, including the complete blood count, biochemistry profile and urinalysis. The results of these tests are usually within normal ranges, but in some cases, blood cells or abnormal cancer cells may be found in the urine sample.
This type of tumour rarely spreads to other locations, but your doctor will need to visually confirm that it is not a malignant form of cancer. Visual diagnostics will include chest and abdominal x-rays to determine if there has been metastasis and what stage it is in if cancer is present. Your veterinarian will also palpate the lymph nodes of the affected area to determine how much the lymph nodes are reacting to the abnormality, an important distinguishing factor when cancerous cells are present.
A sample of lymph fluid will be sent to a laboratory for further evaluation to determine if cancerous cells are in the sample. The presence of cancerous cells in the lymph nodes is often a strong indication that the tumour is not benign. Treatment will be based on the results of these tests.
In some patients, the tumour may regress spontaneously without any treatment. Or your veterinarian may need to surgically excise the mass and begin medical therapy after surgery. If the tumour is benign, that is, not cancerous, a favourable prognosis that allows for a complete cure is generally expected. Your dog’s overall wellbeing will be the deciding factor in how well treatment goes.
Living and Management
The overall prognosis following medical treatment is often excellent in affected patients. The risks are much higher; however, if the tumour is found to be malignant, anticancer therapy presents many side effects, especially if used on a long-term basis.
For example, the types of drugs that are used to suppress the growth of cancerous cells can affect normal cells as well, lessening the protective effects of the immune system and resulting in your dog being at an increased risk of infections, sometimes serious. You will need to maintain a good plan of nutrition to help your dog to recover quickly without complications.
Your veterinarian will set up a follow-up treatment plan for subsequent treatment and routine checkups. The results of the laboratory tests, your dog’s response to treatment, and any untoward side effects related to therapy will guide changes to the treatment plan.