Topical Issues Surrounding Canine Brain Cancer, Deborah Shores, DVM

Flickr Credit by: Rhys A.
What is Canine Brain Cancer? 

Canine brain cancer is a primary or secondary tumor of abnormal cell growth. A primary brain tumor originates from cells within the brain, while a secondary brain tumor is a tumor that has metastasized (spread) to the brain, but has not originated from it. 

The most common type of primary brain tumor in dogs is a meningioma. These tumors grow on the surface of the brain and are inherently benign. 

They typically do not spread to other parts of the body but cause severe disease because they cause compression injury to the brain within the skull.(1)  Breeds with short noses (Brachycephalic breeds), such as Boxers, Boston Terriers, English Bull Dogs are most commonly affected by brain cancer. All breeds of dogs are more susceptible to primary and secondary brain cancer as they grow older.  

What is the Cause of Canine Brain Cancer?

Unfortunately, the cause of cancer is unknown. However, researchers and veterinarians have found several factors that they believe to contribute to the development of cancer in canines. For more information on the factors of canine cancer, please refer to our previous article: Cancer in Dogs.

What are the Symptoms of Canine Brain Cancer?

Symptoms typically depend on the location and severity of the tumor and can appear gradually or suddenly. Unfortunately, symptoms are progressive and will continue to worsen. Diagnosis is typically made from physical examination and imaging such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography).

Symptoms may include:
  • Seizures
  • Behavioral Changes
  • Head Tilt
  • Eyes darting from side to side (nystagmus)
  • Weakness/Paralysis
  • Unsteadiness and/or Staggering
  • Failure to recognize commands and/or familiar people
  • Incontinence 
  • Difficulty chewing/swallowing

What are the Treatment Options for Canine Brain Cancer?

Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are the most common methods of treating brain cancer. Surgery may be recommended depending on the situation, either completely or partially removing the tumor. 

The objective of chemotherapy and radiation therapy is to reduce the size of the tumor as much as possible. Chemotherapy may not be effective due to poor penetration into the central nervous system. Most chemotherapy options are aimed at improving quality of life for as long as possible.

Sadly, the prognosis for dogs with brain cancer is typically grave to poor.  Survival times vary from a few weeks to several months depending on the type of cancer, location of the tumor and response to treatment.

What are Alternative Treatment Options for Canine Brain Cancer?

Homeopathic and herbal remedies can help to alleviate pain and support your dog’s immune system. Also, as with all cancer types, minimizing your dog’s intake of carbohydrates can be very beneficial.(2)  It is important to consult with a holistic veterinarian to determine what therapies and supplements are best for your dog.

Poly-MVA (palladium alpha-lipoic acid complex), a unique formulation of the mineral <em "mso-bidi-font-style:="" normal"="">palladium and antioxidants, has been used with some success in humans and dogs with secondary brain tumors.(3) It is a potent neuro-protective substance and may help slow the growth of brain tumors.(4)  

There are also a variety of quality supplements that can promote a good quality of life. If your dog has undergone chemotherapy, a detoxification supplement will support your dog’s natural cleansing abilities. The herb Amla,commonly known as Indiana Gooseberry, is a strong natural antioxidant that strengthens the immune system. The herb Guduchi is also helpful in protecting your dog’s body against the effects of chemotherapy by increasing effectiveness of white blood cells, and supporting the liver. 

The herbs <em "mso-bidi-font-style:="" normal"="">Artemisinin and Golden Seal Root can also be beneficial. Artemisinin is an herbal drug that has been shown to kill human and canine cancer cells in the laboratory. Golden Seal Root acts as an immunity enhancer, as well as soothing the respiratory tract. 


(1)  Brooks, W. 2012. Meningioma. The Pet Health Library. Veterinary Partner: Veterinary Information Network.

(2)  Silver, R. 2013. Integrative Oncology: Blending the Best of Conventional with Evidence-Based and Supportive Complementary Therapies. Holistic Veterinary Medicine Club Symposium. Veterinary Information Network.  

(3)  Palmquist, R. 2009. Medicinal Mushrooms and Poly MVA for Dog with Brain Tumor. Vet-to-Vet Alternative Medicine Message Board. Veterinary Information Network.X

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