A brain tumor may be the most frightening disease a dog can get.

If your dog has a brain tumor, you’ve gone through that initial stage of wondering where it “came from” or what could have “caused it.”

When my parents were told that there was a strong possibility that their dog had a brain tumor (pre-MRI scan), my mother told me after the veterinary neurologist left the room, “I’m going to ask him what could cause a brain tumor.”

I told my mother, “If the doctor had the answer to that, he’d be on the cover of Time and Newsweek. Don’t even bother asking. They don’t know.”

My mother asked anyways  —  to the vet tech who returned to the room. The vet tech said, “We don’t know what causes brain tumors. But there is nothing you could have done to prevent it or cause it.”

After our dog’s passing, I consulted with Dr. Peter Gordon, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM (Neurology), with Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty Hospital in Langley, British Columbia.

Dr. Gordon explains, “Having a pet with a brain tumor can be a frightening and frustrating experience for a family to go through.

“Thoughts and feelings of anger that more cannot be done, unfairness that this happened to them, guilt for not noticing signs earlier, or frustration imposed by potential financial limitations are not uncommon.”

My brother, a pharmaceutical chemist, told my mother early on that brain tumors are common in dogs and that “we are not cursed.”

After our magnificent was diagnosed with a brain tumor, my brother perused Web sites dedicated to ailing dogs, and told us, “Millions of people are going through this and it’s heartbreaking.”

Dr. Gordon stresses, “Owners must realize that it is never their fault that their dog developed a brain tumor.

“Nor can they be blamed for not detecting a problem in a species that cannot verbalize early symptoms and who is evolutionarily programmed to hide weakness.

“It is not until the dog is simply unable to hide the signs any further that we as humans are alerted to the potential for concern.”

I initially thought my parents’ dog had a slowly-developing bloat, because he had been retching and pacing, and seemed a bit depressed or disengaged from us.

At 8:15 a.m. I made an 11 a.m. appointment for that day with our general veterinarian.

At 8:45 a.m., the dog had his first seizure (which I actually thought, at the time, to be convulsions from bloat).

We rushed him to the vet clinic; they said everything was fine with his body; the problem must be in his brain…

That dogs have no idea they are sick is a blessing.

Dr. Gordon explains, “With this limitation comes a saving grace.  No dog is aware of its own mortality.

If a human were to be diagnosed with a terminal brain disease, his / her life would be forever changed by the realization that their life is near an end.”

“With a dog, however, we cannot relay such information, and although the family has to be plagued with the knowledge of what is to come, the patient is not.

“As long as we can maintain the pet’s comfort and quality of life, he / she can live in happy ignorance of what is to come.

“Regardless of how long that may be, living every day to its fullest, by its very nature, defines the respect and dignity a true friend deserves.”

After our dog was euthanized, my brother reassured us that our beloved was watching over us in a very special way.

Dr. Gordon has advanced training in intracranial and spinal neurosurgical techniques for the correction of intervertebral disc disease, cervical vertebral instability, spinal cord trauma/fracture, Chiari malformation and brain tumor resection.
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.