Brain tumours are more common than was once thought, especially in dogs where they occur at perhaps twice the incidence that they occur in us. The most common tumour is a meningioma, a tumour of the meninges, the delicate "wrapping" around the brain. A meningioma occupies space and is only mildly invasive, tracking along blood vessels. Some meningiomas are operable. Other tumours called gliomas involve brain tissue itself. These occupy space and are also invasive. They are more damaging than menigiomas as are tumours of the pituitary gland at the base of the brain.
Clinical signs associated with brain tumours include:
- Behaviour and temperament changes
- Changes to movement and gait
- Altered mental abilities
- Altered senses and facial nerve control
Diagnosis and treatment
A brain scan is essential for an accurate diagnosis. Without a CT or MRI scan it can be difficult to differentiate damage caused by a brain tumour from other conditions such as vascular accidents (clots or haemorrhages) to brain blood vessels (strokes), metabolic liver or kidney disorders, epilepsy, lead poisoning, even viral infection. Scans are carried out by the neurologists at Dick White Referrals.
Initial treatment is aimed at controlling clinical signs and improving a pet's quality of life. This often includes the use of anticonvulsants and corticosteroids. The second objective of treatment is, if possible, to prolong good quality life. This may involve radiation therapy or surgery, or both.
Palliative treatment alone results in a life expectancy of, on average, two months. Radiation therapy often produces dramatic improvements to both the quality and length of life.