Cancer in a dogs pancreas itself can start in the pancreas itself or be due to cancer that spreads from another part of the body. Pancreatic cancer in dogs can be classified as being primary (problem started in the pancreas) or secondary (cancer reached the pancreas from another area of the body).
As far as different stages of development are concerned, pancreatic cancer can be classified as benign (encapsulated, slowly growing cancer and cannot effect surrounding tissues) or malignant (rapidly growing cancer, surely will effect surrounding tissues and can travel to any part of body via blood circulation) .
Pancreatic adenomas are benign while adenocarcinomas are malignant in nature. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is more common in dogs.
Diagnosing pancreatic cancer in dogs is very difficult due to the late onset of clinical signs and that it can be confused with other conditions such as “pancreatic nodular hyperplasia”. Usually a final diagnosis for both types is reached via an exploratory laparotomy. Radiographic images (x-rays) are non specific in many cases. Surgical resection is usually the only effective way to treat canine pancreatic cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are less effective.
Pancreatic cancers, if benign like adenomas, will exist as a capsule containing cancerous cells. As the cells divide and multiply, the capsule gets enlarged and exerts pressure on the surrounding tissues, resulting in the movement of of surrounding organs which can negatively impact the way they operate.
The malignant type of pancreatic cancers on other hand, are characterized by rapid and uncontrolled cancerous cellular division, causing severe necrosis (cell death) in the pancreas and other organs, including the entry of cells into the blood supply. Pancreatic necrosis may result in to extreme pancreatitis, and may spread to other organs too.
Non Specific clinical signs are usually exhibited by affected dogs which means that the signs don't necessarily indicated pancreatic cancer. Until later stage of disease, most of cases remain sub clinical with no noticeable symptoms. Clinical signs of pancreatitis may be shown by some dogs affected by adinocarcinoma. In cases like that of pancreatic adenomas, the cancerous capsule may block the pancreatic duct of the pancreas and bile duct, causing signs of obstructive jaundice (yellowing of the skin).
Some clinical signs like lameness, bone pain & dyspnea (Uncomfortable respiration) may be seen but are highly non specific for cancer; therefore an exploratory laparotomy is necessary to diagnose pancreatic cancer in dogs.
Laboratory examination of dogs having pancreatic cancer shows non specific results like anemia (low red blood cell count), neutrophilia ( increase of neutrophilic white blood cells in blood), bilirubinemia (Bilirubin in blood) and hyperglycemia (Increased glucose level in the blood).
Radiographic images may not be helpful, because of very dark and mystifying results, like transposition (movement) of the spleen,a shadowed abdominal cavity etc. A soft–tissue mass can be seen on ultrasonography, but it doesn’t confirm canine pancreatic cancer.
An exploratory laparotomy is usually essential for a confirmatory diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
Treating canine pancreatic cancer requires a confirmed diagnosis, as surgical resection is required to eradicate cancerous cells.
In most cases, the benign type of cancer is treated only after clinical signs of organ transposition are confirmed. Partial pancreatectomy is usually required to excise the capsule of adenomas. Prognosis in this form of pancreatic cancer is considered “excellent”.
In the case of malignant tumors, like adinocarcinomas, surgical operation is very tough, laborious, and is usually not effective as the cellular division is rapid, non specific and may spread to other organs such as the liver, intestines, lungs and surrounding abdominal and thoracic lymph nodes.
Therefore, owner of dogs should be forewarned that clean surgical margins can never be achieved. The prognosis in cases of cancers like adinocarcinomas is ranked “grave”.
Chemotherapy & Radiation therapy has not been so much effective in any case of canine pancreatic cancers.
For dog owners looking for added support of the pancreatis and help with fighting cancer, there are homeopathic remedies available from PetAlive.com that are known for their positive impact on pancreatic function (Pancreas Booster) and the immune system (C-Caps). The site is also a good source of additional information on pancreatic cancer dog problems.