Life of a Dog With a Brain Tumor – A Complete Guide

dog with a brain tumor

As a true pet lover, you would do anything in your power to ensure that your buddy is safe and well. This means regular trips to the vet and taking care of your canine companions. However, despite this, your cat or dog can be at risk of suffering from a human disease like cancer. In this post, we will discuss how to know if you have a dog with a brain tumor. What are the common symptoms and how you should deal with it? 

What is Brain Tumor in A Dog?

A brain tumor in a dog is similar to what occurs in human beings. It is an abnormal growth of cells within body tissue. It can also be a result of a tumor elsewhere within the body. In other words, the tumor can result from a primary source or a secondary source. In a primary brain tumor, the illness originates in the brain itself. The brain cells and the surrounding membranes are affected directly. 

A secondary brain tumor means that cancer has reached this organ from another source in the dog’s body. In dogs, particles of tumors from other parts of the body can be the primary source of cancer. These can reach the brain and start to grow via the bloodstream. Gradually, the tumor grows and puts pressure on the surrounding brain tissue. This can result in inflammation and brain damage. 

Studies have shown that dogs over the age of 5 years are more likely to develop brain tumors. Also, certain breeds like the long-nosed Collies are more susceptible to contract this disease than others. As the dog ages, it is more likely to fall ill to a brain tumor. 

Common Symptoms of Brain Tumor in Dogs

Unfortunately, brain tumors in pets like cats and dogs is as common as it is in the human population. Also, we don’t know the cause of this illness in dogs and humans. It can strike the body at random and may not show any symptoms in the initial stages. Dogs with a brain tumor can be affected by two types of brain cancers – glioma or meningioma. Some common symptoms are as follows,

Abnormal Behavior

As a pet owner, only you know what your dog’s normal behavior is. Any change in this can indicate that something is abnormal with your pet. This is because our brain is responsible for our behavior patterns. Therefore, any distress to it will be reflected in our emotions. In other words, an untoward aggressive behavior, or dullness and lethargy can be indicative of a dog with a brain tumor. 

Abnormal behavior can also include a sudden increase or decrease in your pet’s food or water intake.  


As a sign of initial stages of brain tumors, seizures are one of the most common symptoms of this cancer. Seizures can result in jerking, collapsing, muscle twitching, stiffening, drooling, chomping, foaming at the mouth, etc. Call a vet as soon as your dog displays any signs of a seizure. 

Loss of Vision

Dilated pupils or uncoordinated eye movements can be a result of a brain tumor in your pet. Therefore, if your dog is unable to see clearly out of one or both of its eyes, then consult a vet who can determine the cause of these symptoms.

Pains and Aches

These primarily refer to any discomfort in your dog’s neck or head. For instance, do you notice any sensitivity in the neck, or is your dog tilting its head due to pain? Both of these can indicate a much more serious condition. Also, look out for other physical signs like excessive panting. A dog with a brain tumor is likely to experience breathing trouble, and you may find your dog panting even while resting.


Other symptoms can include nausea, restlessness, and unsteady behavior. Some signs are not directly connected to your pet’s neck or head. These can include weight gain, weight loss, chronic cough, wounds, etc. 

Diagnosis & Treatment

A brain tumor in dogs is a terrible condition. Fortunately, there are a host of treatments available today that can help cure your pet of this terrible ailment. The first step, however, is the correct diagnosis.

  • A physical examination is one of the first steps to determine if there is anything wrong with your pet. This can be done by testing pupil sizes, limb reflexes, hearing, and sight disorders.
  • A dog with a brain tumor can also be tested using a CT scan or an MRI scan. If these tests are not conclusive, then urine, blood, or spinal fluids can be tested to find out the cause of seizures.

Once the diagnosis confirms the presence of a brain tumor, your doctor will recommend the following treatment options. 


While this is a fairly common treatment for cancer, it impacts the entire body of the patient. However, it can be helpful if cancer has spread to other parts of the body.


Brain surgery is an effective method for removing the tumor entirely. However, it is a complicated procedure, and your veterinarian can tell you about the risks involved. Also, there is a possibility that some cancer cells may get left behind.

Radiation Therapy

CFRT or conventionally fractioned radiation therapy is commonly recommended, along with surgery. It helps by killing off any remaining tumor cells. However, radiation can also damage healthy tissues. 

Stereotactic Propagation

SRS or SRT are newer forms of radiation therapy and are offered by most pet oncology clinics today. The precision of radiation delivery is their biggest advantage. This ensures that the radiation impacts only the tumor. There is very low collateral damage to the surrounding healthy tissues. Additionally, these newer techniques require fewer treatment sessions.

SRS/SRT is capable of treating newer types of tumors. These were previously considered untreatable. Also, patient recovery is much faster. 

Life Expectancy of A Dog With Brain Tumor

A dog with a brain tumor has a low life expectancy without treatment. While the prognosis is dependent on the individual canine case, the progression timeline can range between a few weeks to a year. It is difficult to determine because environmental as well as genetic factors, can impact the results. 

Palliative Care For Dogs With A Brain Tumor

Most pet owners see palliative care as a last resort for their dogs. However, it is a genuine attempt to give the best possible life to your beloved pet for as long as possible. It includes nutritional support, pain control, good emotional, and physical wellbeing. Prednisone plays a crucial role in palliative care. It helps increase an appetite ensuring that your dog does not succumb to weakness. Of course, if the quality of life declines substantially, then you can consider euthanasia rather than prolong the suffering. 


Watching your beloved pet struggle with a brain tumor can be heart-wrenching to watch day in and day out. Also, you don’t want to see your pet terrified by the slow and painful death. Considering this, most pet owners choose a kinder option by ending the canine’s life at home, surrounded by their loved ones. 

How Can You Decide?

There can never be a ‘right’ time to euthanize your pet. There can only be a ‘best’ time. In other words, you have to look at the process objectively and decide if you should make a decision one way or another.

The loss of a beloved pet can be devastating. Therefore, it is very normal to have second thoughts about the decision regarding euthanasia. You can begin by getting a professional opinion from your veterinarian before deciding either way. 

Chest x-rays are an effective method to evaluate the spread of cancer to other important parts of the body before considering euthanasia. Veterinarians feel that if there is no possible mode of treatment left, then this last option should be exercised sooner rather than later.

What Happens In Pet Euthanasia?

The usual pet euthanasia is a two-step process. In the first step, the veterinarian will give a sedative shot to your dog. The idea is to transit the canine from consciousness to unconsciousness gently.

Within 5-10 minutes, your pet will fall into a deep sleep and will no longer be aware of its surroundings. 

In the second step, the vet will now administer a second shot to gradually slow down the dog’s heart and stop it eventually. Apart from the slight pinch of the injection, the pet will not feel any other discomfort. 


Medical science is yet to determine any conclusive causes of brain tumors and cancer in dogs. As a beloved member of your family unit, it is up to you to ensure that the dog gets the best care during this devastating illness. For this, you need to look out for symptoms and give your veterinarian a call if you feel that your companion is not acting normal. Your quick reaction can help save the life of your dog.