The pair of glands located above each kidney are called the Adrenal Glands. They are responsible for producing hormones that are needed by certain organs and induce metabolic activities in the body, like the hormone Cortisol.
Tumors can grow from the adrenal cortex when there is an abnormal growth of cells. This abnormality will cause overproduction of different hormones in the body. Tumors can be malignant (deadly) or benign (growths that are not fatal).
Causes of Adrenal Cortex Tumor
Like any tumor, it is hard to pinpoint a single reason for the development of adrenal cortex tumors. There are plenty of factors that can cause this abnormality that may be genetic or environmental.
Signs of Adrenal Cortex Tumors
Since there is an abnormality in the production of hormones your pet may experience an increase in drinking and urination, bloating, and hair loss. Other signs may include losing appetite, losing weight, and increased lethargy. There are some rare signs that might occur like calcium deposits in the skin and wasting away of muscles.
Diagnosis of Adrenal Cancer
Your vet will recommend a CT scan if your dog is experiencing the above symptoms. Ultrasound and blood tests will also be needed for further diagnosis. When the adrenal gland is enlarged to more than 1.5cm it is identified as a mass and will be tested for an increase in cortisol levels or increase in adrenaline which may produce different symptoms. Both adrenal glands may be enlarged but most cases will only have a tumor on one of the adrenal glands.
Although most tumors in the adrenal gland are benign and will not spread to other areas of the body, it is important to get treatment as the tumor may grow and your pet will continue to experience the symptoms of the adrenal cortex tumor.
If the tumor is malignant it will invade the surrounding vessels and tissues. Early diagnosis and treatment are needed to prevent the development of blood clots in the vessels that will make it hard to proceed with the surgery. Although dangerous, malignant tumors can be prevented from spreading to other parts of the body with early diagnosis and treatment.
Treatment for Adrenal cortex tumor
Drug therapy is the first step and most common treatment for benign adrenal cortex tumors. This medication aims to inhibit the hormone pathways from the pituitary gland.
If the tumor is malignant, surgery may be needed. Before surgery, your dog will undergo blood tests, urinalysis, x-rays, and ultrasounds.
Complications in surgery like hemorrhage may arise as the adrenal gland has a close relationship with the blood supply of the abdominal area. Abnormal growths that produce an increase in adrenaline may also cause a spike and drop in blood pressure level during the surgery. Masses that produce an increase in cortisol will delay healing. Certain medications will be provided to aid these complications.
After these procedures to treat and remove the adrenal cortex tumors, your dog will need a complete healing treatment to get back in his healthy, normal lifestyle. You will need to dedicate additional attention and treatment to his change of diet and lifestyle for a happy recovery.
How long can a dog live with adrenal cancer?
That depends on how well the post-surgery recovery goes and if cancer comes back. Every dog’s recovery is individual and there are no guarantees. The general life expectancy on average after a dog gets adrenal cancer is three years, but that is just an average number – your dog may live up to 10 years. Make sure you are consistent with your post-surgery treatment in terms of the diet, potential medication, and lifestyle changes, and if all goes well, your dog may live out its natural lifespan.
Should you euthanize a dog with cancer?
Always follow the advice of your veterinarian, and remember, every case is different. We've all known dogs that have perfectly happy lives with cancer, or after having it successfully treated, live life to the full!
Are dogs in pain when they have cancer?
Your veterinarian will be able to answer this for you as every case is different.
Do dogs know they're dying?
No one really knows the answer to this. Dogs can, however, pick up on our moods really quickly, so if we're sad or upset, the dog will recognize that something is wrong.