For those wondering, dogs can get reproductively transmitted diseases too and a transmissible venereal tumor is one of them. Canine transmissible venereal tumor disease also known as infectious sarcoma, venereal granuloma, transmissible lymphosarcoma, infective venereal tumor or Sticker tumor, is a condition that is commonly seen in in tropical and subtropical climates and it typically affects young, intact dogs. The disease has been known for many centuries and it can affect both female and male dogs. Transmission from one dog to another occurs from simple physical contact (licking, sniffing) but it's most commonly transmitted during mating. Tanja, our guest from Macedonia, will share her personal story of the disease affecting her beloved dog "Bug."
What is Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumor?
Greetings to all readers, my name is Tanja, I am from Macedonia and I would like to share with you our story about detecting and treating an illness called Transmissible Venereal Tumor in dogs.
First of all, I must shortly explain what Transmissible Venereal Tumor (or TVT) exactly is. TVT is a transmissible virus that causes cancer affecting the reproductive organs in dogs.
The cancer forms cauliflower-like nodules which often can’t be detected until they get inflamed and start to bleed. Often, the condition can be misdiagnosed if the bleeding is assumed to be hematuria (urine in blood which can occur in some kidney inflammation diseases or urinary tract infection).
I must also mention that this kind of tumor grows rapidly in immunosuppressed dogs, like in our case.
" In most cases the tumor is not malignant and simply grows and bleeds at a local site, eventually being rejected by the patient's immune system; however, if the patient is immune-suppressed due to young age or poor general health, then the tumor can spread in a cancerous fashion."~Wendy C. Brooks, veterinarian
Signs of Trouble
My dog Bug is a 5 and a half year old Samoyed and he is a rescue. We got him at 7 months of age from an owner who claimed that he didn’t have enough time to take care of him and I was the happiest person on the planet when he joined our family. Except for some matted fur, he looked like a healthy dog.
But, things were not how they looked at first and we found out later. Also, I must mention that he was experiencing some gastric problems – eating grass and vomiting, so the veterinarian suggested to give him ranitidine tablets to neutralize the gastric acid and said that sometimes that is normal in dogs. Also, the vet suggested to give him smaller portions of food more often to keep him from over-eating (although, we never had that problem).
After one year that we got him, he got infected with TVT after mating with a neighbor’s female dog (he run away from home attracted by her pheromones).
We found out about his illness about six months later. The symptoms were: bloody discharge from his genitals, constant licking around the infected area, lethargy, sleeping most of the time and hiding in dark places around the house (behind doors, under the bed etc.).
" I was the happiest person on the planet when Bug joined our family. Except for some matted fur, he looked like a healthy dog."
At the Vet's Office
The veterinarian examined him externally and assumed that probably he was suffering from complicated urinary inflammation and put him on antibiotics (I must mention that in our country the veterinarian practice is still at very low level; there is only few places where they make urinary and blood analysis for pets, or if you are lucky enough, you can try getting them at a human laboratory, for a “fee”). We treated him with antibiotics, ciprofloxacin 500 mg given twice daily for about ten days.
This obviously didn’t help because that was a wrong diagnose and the situation started to get worse. Bug was refusing all kinds of food and water, was sleeping most of the time, so we searched for a second opinion from another veterinarian.
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This time the vet suggested to sedate him and examine the genitals, because he started to drop blood more often and also an unpleasant odor appeared. After getting Bug mildly sedated and the examination done, we could clearly see the cauliflower formation at the genitals and the true diagnose was established.
For treating TVT, the veterinarian explained to us that we must have a surgery to operate on the infected tissue and get the formations removed so the tumors would stop from spreading (this kind of tumors are highly aggressive). Also, chemotherapy was an option after the surgery, but the decision was on our own risk – it could have cost us the life our pet.
Going Through Surgery
We agreed to a surgery and were sent to another city where was located The Veterinarian Institute of The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine where a team of doctors could perform it. A blood test was taken and Bug was scanned, no signs of metastasis were visible.
The results of the blood test showed very low level of thrombocytes, but the doctors said it was probably a consequence from the frequent bleeding. The surgery went well and they told us that we could go home and see how the recovery would go.
Bug was getting better a little bit, but he wasn’t getting completely well still. We decided to go to another veterinarian, whom was very hard to reach for an appointment, but somehow we managed it. He confirmed the diagnose, but when he looked at the blood results also noticed that there was something missing and took a test for a disease called Ehrlichia canis, transmitted by ticks (also as a symptom appears vomiting, which I mention it before).
The test appeared positive and there was an explanation why the thrombocytes where at lowest level – it was one of the symptoms of this disease too. He prescribed doxycycline a 100 mg twice daily for a month and the treatment of Ehrlichia canis was successful.
Tumor Coming Back
Unfortunately, the tumor was back and we had to do two more surgeries and chemotherapy with vincristine (which was very hard to find). Bug received four doses intravenous vincristine at low level, because he was really exhausted and very weak with all the treatments and surgeries and sedations.
I must say that our hearts were breaking, but we didn’t gave up, although most of the other people opinions were that we are just wasting our time. We knew that he was a fighter.
After three months from our last chemotherapy we experienced one more shock – the right eye became red and itchy and started to swell. We started a treatment with eye drops Dexamethasone plus Neomycin, but the swelling grew out overnight, so this was not a bacterial infection.
It was metastasis from the tumor in the eye. We still don’t know why it appear after certain amount of time, the dog was looking well. The veterinarians couldn’t save the eye, so it got it removed to stop it from spreading to another. Luckily for us, this stopped here.
I hope this article was useful as an example and as an information what can happen sometimes unintentionally, but from unknowing and lack of experience. I want to send a message to all readers: always ask for second opinions, always check on things. And the most important, never give up – our furry friends, oh, what fighters they are!
"Chemotherapy has been shown to be the most effective and practical therapy, with vincristine sulfate being the most frequently used drug. " Calvet et al., 1982; Nak et al., 2005
- Cytology from a needle aspiration biopsy of a canine transmissible venereal tumor. Slide was stained with a modified Wright's stain. Joel Mills - Own work CC BY-SA 3.0
- Calvet CA, Leifer CE, McEwen EG. (1982). Vincristine for the treatment of Transmissible Venereal Tumor in the dog. J Amer. Vet. Med. Assoc. 181(2):163-164
- Veterinary Partner: Transmissible Venereal Tumor