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Urinary Bladder Cancer (Rhabdomyosarcoma) in Dogs

Rhabdomyosarcoma of the Urinary Bladder in Dogs

Urinary bladder cancer, particularly rhabdomyosarcoma, is an exceedingly rare and aggressive form of tumor in dogs. Rhabdomyosarcoma originates from either stem cells or the striated muscle surrounding the developing Müllerian or Wolffian ducts. During embryonic development, Müllerian ducts in females evolve into the reproductive tract, while Wolffian ducts in males transform into the channels responsible for transporting sperm.

Rhabdomyosarcoma affecting the urinary bladder is sometimes referred to as botryoid rhabdomyosarcomas due to their characteristic resemblance to clusters of grapes. These tumors have a propensity to metastasize to internal organs and lymph nodes, exacerbating the severity of the condition.


  • Presence of blood in the urine
  • Difficulty and straining during urination
  • Frequent urination in small amounts
  • Retention of urine or inability to urinate


Causes of urinary bladder cancer (rhabdomyosarcoma) in dogs are considered idiopathic, meaning they are unknown.


To diagnose urinary bladder cancer (rhabdomyosarcoma) in dogs, your veterinarian will require a comprehensive history of your dog’s health leading up to the onset of symptoms. A thorough physical examination will be conducted, accompanied by tests including a blood chemical profile, complete blood count, urinalysis, and electrolyte panel.

If rhabdomyosarcoma is suspected, the urinalysis may reveal bloody urine, while a microscopic examination of urine sediment can confirm the presence of rhabdomyosarcoma cells.

Internal examination of the bladder can be performed using ultrasound or double-contrast cystourethrography imaging, involving the injection of dye to enhance visualization of bladder and urethral structures. Additionally, intravenous pyelography may be employed to assess the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and renal pelvis by injecting dye to visualize internal organ structures.

A definitive diagnosis typically involves examining tissue samples (biopsies) obtained from exploratory surgery or cystoscopy, which involves inserting a tube through the urethra to examine the bladder and ureters. Histopathological examination of the tissue samples is crucial for confirming the presence of rhabdomyosarcoma.


Treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma of the urinary bladder in dogs typically involves surgical removal of the tumor. However, due to the highly invasive nature of these tumors, surgical intervention can be challenging. In cases where the bladder is inflamed as a result of bacterial infection, antibiotics will be prescribed based on culture and sensitivity tests.

Living and Management

After initiating chemotherapy, your veterinarian will arrange regular follow-up appointments to monitor your dog’s progress. These check-ups will occur every three weeks during the course of chemotherapy and then transition to a frequency of every three months after the completion of the chemotherapy treatment.

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