Brain tumor progression in dogs…

This article explains what worsening symptoms to look out for if your dog has a brain tumor, including if your dog is receiving treatment for the brain tumor.

My parents’ dog was diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this year, a few days after suffering a seizure.

In dogs over age 5 or 6, new onset seizures are strongly indicative of a brain tumor.

The first symptoms of a brain tumor will vary from dog to dog.

In the case of my parents’ German shepherd, the symptoms were:

Sudden compulsion to walk around the kitchen island and kitchen table counterclockwise; lost enthusiasm for playing fetch, including appearing disoriented; retching; an episode of vomiting; not showing previous excitement upon seeing familiar visitors; ignoring commands to come.

All of these symptoms appeared over a period of about one week, and then the seizure came; two days later an MRI revealed the brain tumor. The dog was given 3-9 months with treatment.

To make a long story short, after we realized that the dog almost died under the care of the diagnosing vet, we switched to an alternative vet who restored the dog to nearly normal as far as behavior.

We had hope, but my brother, a pharmaceutical chemist, pointed out, “But remember what we’re dealing with: A brain tumor is a brain tumor.”

We still had hope because the German shepherd was once again reconnecting with his family.

We saw his soul in his eyes; his bark was robust; he was interactive and responsive; and the pacing diminished, though never completely disappeared.

All along he was on potassium bromide (prescribed by the first vet, but advised by the alternative vet to remain on), an anti-convulsant.

Potassium bromide’s premier side effect is a wobbly gait and hind leg weakness.

However, this is supposed to disappear in several weeks.

But my brother said that it can last as long as the dog is on this salt solution.

The dog seemed perfectly normal for a while, save for a nearly complete loss of interest in playing fetch; and some pacing here and there.

And then one morning at 2 a.m. I was awakened by a big thud; the dog was having a seizure.

I had been staying with my parents to help them treat the pet (the administration of the meds was too overwhelming for my mother to handle alone, and my father was detached from the burden).

The dog had three more seizures within 24 hours. We took him to the alternative vet for a several-day stay for observation.

The dog was released declared in good shape (but realize that the vet clinic wasn’t laid out in a way to truly observe the animal’s behavior).

However, once back home, the pacing really picked up steam.

The dog had had two strep throat infections (the first was misdiagnosed by the initial vet, and the misdiagnosis nearly killed the GS), but only the second strep infection had him spitting up.

So when he began spitting up after returning from the several-day stay, I suspected yet another strep infection.

However, I didn’t see any other classic signs of strep infection in dogs (what are they?).

This alarmed me, actually, because if the spitting up wasn’t from strep, it had to be from the brain tumor.

Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens

I began suspecting that maybe the brain tumor was beating out the alternative treatment.

The dog occasionally staggered a little, and at one point swerved leftward into the washer as though a bit intoxicated. I thought, potassium bromide. Or…?

The next day, the pacing was even more jacked up; he spent a lot of time mindlessly pacing from one end of the house to the other.

However, the dog retained a few other resurrected behaviors that the brain tumor had initially knocked out, like giving a paw upon a visual command.

The next morning my mother found a pile of poop on the kitchen floor.

This was not normal; the dog was fully trained to bark when he needed to go out.

Later that day he urinated a little in the house. My brother thought it was a side effect of a sedative that the alternative vet had given him.

The dog had also paced nonstop for an hour between 6 am and 7 am.

Next day he waltzed over to his pillow and outright urinated in it, creating a puddle, then as he walked away, continued letting out urine, slipping on it.

Even if this was a side effect from a sedative, the dog should have known to stand at the door and bark, like he always had, to signal a need to go out.

I then admitted that the treatment was no longer working. Then hindsight began kicking in:

#1) The ongoing incidents of rear leg clumsiness and tipsy gait were not the potassium bromide; this was the brain tumor. “Ataxia” is a common symptom of brain tumor in dogs.

#2) Another common symptom of dog brain tumor is when the animal misjudges objects on the opposite side that the brain tumor is at, resulting in bumping into things.

The tumor was on the right side of the dog’s brain.

And I recalled how he bumped leftward into the washer; and how not too long before that, upon proceeding to jump into the backseat of the car, instead misjudged and jumped too far left, crashing into the frame of the car.

#3) The pacing the last few days of his life was nearly nonstop (literally) and quite fast, relentless, incessant.

#4) He wasn’t barking as much, and wasn’t interested in barking on command anymore.

#5) He lost interest in his family members. We were no longer his family; we were merely food dispensers.

#6) Incontinence

My brother and I told our mother, “It’s downhill from here. He’s no longer stabilized. He’s declining.”

Our suspicions were deeply confirmed after the dog got loose (thanks to lawn care worker who left our gate open), and would not come to me as I ran after him; would not come to my father when he intercepted him with the car and summoned him to jump in; and tried to bite me when I intercepted him at one point and tried to grab his harness.

Don’t let a great appetite fool you; a brain tumor in a dog can increase appetite.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Source: NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine