Pancreatic Cancer (Adenocarcinoma) in Dogs

PetMD Editorial
July 15, 2009
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Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma in Dogs

A neoplasm, or tumor, can be either benign or malignant in nature. A carcinoma is a type of malignant tumor found in both humans and animals, and tends to be particularly malignant, with recurring growth after surgical excision. Adenocarcinomas are characterized as glandular in structure, and/or originating in the glandular tissue. This type of tumor is rare in dogs, but like other carcinomas it grows rapidly and metastasizes to distant parts and organs of the body. In most dogs metastasis is found at the time of diagnosis, thus making treatment difficult for these patients. Similar to other types of cancer, adenocarcinoma of the pancreas usually affects older dogs (more than eight years). It can occur in any breed or gender of dog, but older female dogs and Airedale terriers have been found to be at higher risk than others.

Symptoms and Types

There are no specific tumor related symptoms. Following are some of the signs commonly seen in patients with adenocarcinoma of the pancreas:

  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Jaundice
  • Poor digestion
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain

Causes

This type of cancer is classified as idiopathic, as the exact cause is still unknown.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will perform a complete blood profile, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. A determination of the lipase (an enzyme released by the pancreas) level will assist your veterinarian in the diagnosis, as it is often elevated in a majority of patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Your veterinarian will also perform abdominal radiographs in order to determine the presence of any masses or changes in the pancreas tissue. Ultrasonography is also used to further improve diagnostic accuracy. If the above mentioned procedures fail to establish a definite diagnosis, your veterinarian may recommend a surgical biopsy of pancreatic tissue to confirm diagnosis.

Treatment

There is no curative treatment available for the treatment of this rare tumor. Surgery and medications are used in those cases in which treatment is suggested. A partial or total surgical removal of the pancreas may be performed. Pain control medication may be required to prevent severe pain associated with this tumor.

Living and Management

What you may do at home to improve the quality of its life for your dog is provide extra care and affection to ease its discomfort. For ongoing treatment you may need to visit your veterinary oncologist at regular intervals. Follow your veterinarian's guidelines, especially in giving the chemotherapeutic agents at home. Many chemotherapeutic agents can be hazardous to your health if not handled properly; consult with your veterinarian on the best handling practices.