Brain Tumors in Dogs

All About Dog Brain Tumors

Vet-Checked • Pet-Tested • Owner-Approved

Kate Barrington

Researched & Written by

Kate Barrington

At EasyPet, we are committed to presenting the most accurate and up-to-date information to assist you in your pet care journey. When appropriate, we consult licensed and practicing veterinarians to fact-check our professionally written articles.

Regardless of how old they are, dog brain tumors are problematic for most dog breeds. Naturally, everyone wants to believe that their pet is safe from life-threatening issues like this, but sometimes luck isn’t on our side.

Statistics show that some breeds are more prone to brain tumors than others. Therefore, if you own a dog, you must have a basic understanding of dog brain tumors and the risk factors associated with your breed.

As is the case with any form of cancerous diseases, brain tumors can be treated better the earlier they are diagnosed. Keeping an eye on your dog for the common symptoms is a way to stay on the safer side. 

In this article, we talk about dog brain tumors, covering the basics you should know.

In addition, we have answer some of the common questions, including the difficult ones that keep owners up at night.

Brain Tumors in Dogs : The Basics

sedated dog

If you didn’t know, dogs are prone to many types of cancer, as is the case with human beings. The problem is that detecting the presence of cancer involves a lot of testing, which requires the detection of signs in the first place. As it happens, however, dogs are also prone to a brain tumor, also known as brain cancer.

A brain tumor occurs when a cancerous mass starts growing inside the brain.

This cancerous mass may be an overgrown cell from the brain’s membrane or could have moved from another part of the body. Based on this, the mass can be classified into primary and secondary tumors.

It needs to be noted that brain tumors can happen in different forms and sizes. Therefore, you should understand what the different types of brain tumors found in dogs are. We will talk about this aspect a little later.

Even though some dog breeds have a higher risk of these brain tumors, no breed is safe from brain tumors. So, you need to take the basic precautions to keep your furry friend healthy and safer.

What are the signs of brain tumors in dogs?

You should look out for the following symptoms to understand whether your dog is suffering from a brain tumor.

  1. Seizures are considered the most important sign of brain tumors among dogs. Now, remember that different dogs will respond to seizures in different ways. Having said that, you can look out for signs like chomping, tongue chewing, twitching, loss of consciousness, stiffening, jerking, etc. Also, dogs tend to fall suddenly, as they may not have balance when these seizures occur. The thing about seizures is that they can be spotted very quickly.
  2. Behavioral changes can also be spotted in dogs that suffer from brain tumors. Depending on the dog breed and other details, these changes could vary. For instance, you can find differences in the total behavior of the dog. The dog may start to consume more water or food. Similarly, some dogs will show a kind of restlessness and nausea. Sure, other situations can also induce behavioral changes in dogs. However, the ones caused by a brain tumor will be relatively more noticeable.
  3. In addition to these, you may also find problems like vision loss, lack of steadiness, and pain in the body. More importantly, your dog may experience head/neck pain. So, if your dog is crying when it is touched in these areas, you should not ignore it.

If you spot any of these symptoms in your dog, you should not think twice before approaching the vet. Only on-time diagnosis and treatment can protect your furry friend from a brain tumor.

How long do dogs live with brain tumors?

Dog with brain tumor

There is no fixed answer to this question, which is unfortunate.

The time your dog may have with brain tumors depends on when the brain tumor is detected and treated. If you can look out for changes and go for the proper treatment, your dog may survive for months or years. However, if your dog is at a stage where treatment cannot help, supportive care can extend the survival time for only a couple of months.

It is one of the reasons why we reassert the importance of detecting dog brain tumors as early as possible.

Is a brain tumor painful for a dog?

While not all brain tumors cause pain, some types of brain tumors can put your furry friend in a lot of pain. It is one of the reasons why veterinarians prescribe a lot of anti-inflammatory medicine when they want to provide supportive care for a dog suffering from brain tumors. However, before we estimate the amount of pain a dog may be going through, a proper cancer diagnosis is necessary.

By the way, even if a brain tumor is not causing direct pain, the signs of cancer are painful. For instance, dogs will find it challenging to go through seizures and a lack of balance. Of course, we cannot ignore the substantial damage that can happen on the side.

Considering all these, we should assume that a brain tumor is generally painful for a dog.

What are the different types of brain tumors in dogs?

Let us have a look at two of the major types of brain tumors in dogs.

Primary brain tumors

Primary brain tumors in dogs are masses formed from one of the cells in the brain’s lining.

The typical examples for primary brain tumors happen to be Meningioma, glioma, pituitary adenoma, choroid plexus, adenocarcinoma, etc. Out of these, Meningioma is considered the most common primary brain tumor seen on canines.

If you have a long-nosed breed like the Golden Retriever, it has a higher risk of Meningioma. Compared to other forms of brain tumors, Meningioma has a slow pace of growth. It means the detection is likely, and the brain tumor can be treated in most cases. However, there are exceptional instances when the primary brain tumor is large at the beginning itself.

Secondary brain tumors

As you can guess from the name, secondary brain tumors occur due to overgrown cells that have moved to the brain from other parts of the body.

This process of the cell being transferred is called metastasis.

Typical examples of secondary brain tumors include mammary carcinoma, melanoma, and hemangiosarcoma. It is worth noting that secondary brain tumors pose a higher risk to the dog.

A secondary brain tumor means that the cancerous mass has traveled some distance, spreading itself to the different parts of a dog’s body. So, a brain tumor from this category has a lower risk of being treated and removed. Thorough testing is required to make sure that your dog does not have this type of brain tumor.

Depending on the type of brain tumor, your dog may have to survive different levels of pain and other issues. We must also keep in mind that these different types require unique kinds of treatments in some cases.

Can brain tumors in dogs be treated?

Dog waiting for brain tumor treatment

Yes. When they are diagnosed at an early stage, brain tumors in dogs can be treated. In most cases, it can be cured with the help of treatment, medication, and therapy. There are a few ways through which tumors are treated in dogs. In many cases, these methods are combined for a better effect. The standard treatment methods are:

Surgical Removal

Surgical removal is the process of removing the cancerous mass from a dog’s brain. This mode of treatment is followed when the cancerous mass is vast and harms the dog’s life. However, not all tumors can be removed using surgery. For instance, if the tumor is located deep inside the brain, it cannot be removed via surgery. On the other hand, cancers like Meningiomas are generally found on the surface layer of the brain. Therefore, dogs will have a better chance of success.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is another way to reduce the impact of the tumor on the dog’s brain. It must be noted that radiation therapy does not directly remove the tumor. Instead, it reduces the growth speed of the tumor. Depending on the size and nature of the tumor, the provider can use different radiation therapies. Compared to surgical removal, radiation therapy may have some side effects. Radiation therapy can deal with brain tumors that surgery cannot reach.


Chemotherapy is probably the least efficient treatment for a brain tumor in dogs and cats. However, it is often considered a last resort for many furry friends. More importantly, chemotherapy is combined with two of the methods we have already mentioned. The combined effect is often ideal.

In addition to these, palliative care is also offered to dogs suffering from brain tumors. It happens in cases where surgery or therapy cannot do anything substantial. At such a point, the best medical science can make things easier for the dog to survive through the tough time.

The Bottom Line

Dog brain tumors are never easy to talk about. However, it should not stop you from keeping an eye open for potential issues and taking suitable treatment/therapy options. We believe our guide has answered all your significant queries.


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