Transmissible Venereal Tumors  in Dogs

Zuri; a rescue who contracted TVT

Transmissible venereal tumors (TVT) are tumors that arise from the dysregulated growth of cells called histiocytes. It is sexually transmitted through direct skin-to-skin contact with the tumor that results in cancer cells being transplanted from dog to dog.

Dogs of any breed, age, or sex are susceptible, but it is most commonly observed in mixed-breed dogs, especially those that are sexually ‘intact’ (not spayed or neutered), and stray and free-roaming dogs.

What causes this Cancer?

The most common cause of this cancer is direct contact with a dog with TVT, which includes sexual contact (intercourse), licking, biting, and sniffing the tumor affected areas.

“The signs of this type of tumor in your dog are entirely dependent on the location of the tumor.”

 If located on the penis/prepuce or vulva, there may be irregular thickening of the tissue, discomfort, intermittent bleeding, or bruising.

You may notice your dog excessively licking the area. If located within the mouth or on the tongue, you may observe ‘cauliflower-like’ nodules that grow and continue to grow in these areas. They may ulcerate and bleed.

How is this type of tumor diagnosed?

Cell samples can be collected either by swabbing the area with a cotton-tipped swab or by fine needle aspiration (FNA). FNA involves taking a small needle with a syringe and suctioning a sample of cells directly from the tumor. After collection, the cells are placed onto a microscope slide.

How does this cancer typically progress?

In the majority of cases, this cancer typically remains local, meaning that it affects only the area that originally came in contact with the cancer. Although it may disappear on its own (spontaneous regression) due to an immune system response, this is extremely rare. TVTs usually continue to grow and can become increasingly bothersome without treatment. In rare cases, TVTs can spread to other areas of the body (metastasize), usually to the nearby lymph nodes.

What are the treatments for this type of tumor?

Complete surgical excision, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are effective treatments; however, chemotherapy is considered the treatment of choice. Complete surgical excision may be difficult (and often cannot be achieved) due to the location of these tumors. Surgery alone often leads to recurrence. If there is resistance to chemotherapy, radiation therapy may be required. The prognosis for total remission with chemotherapy or radiation therapy is good.

If your dog has been diagnosed with TVT, it is most likely that it was contracted from another dog. Until your dog is treated and your veterinarian determines that treatment successfully eliminated the tumor, contact with other dogs should be avoided

Excerpt taken from

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