Rhabdomyosarcoma in Cats and Dogs
Rhabdomyosarcomas are rare malignant (cancerous) tumors that originate from cells, called myoblasts, which form the
skeletal muscle. In dogs, these type of tumors occur in the tongue, oral cavity, larynx, myocardium, and urinary bladder.
They have a low-to-moderate risk to metastasize (spread) to distant organs throughout the body, most commonly to the
lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys, and adrenal glands. The diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma will require an extensive
histologic
analysis by the pathologist. Because these tumors are so rare, the knowledge of prognosis and treatment options is rather
incomplete. The few dogs that have been documented for this type of cancer show encouraging overall survival times for
those who were treated by surgical removal of the tumor with or without
radiation therapy or chemotherapy. In humans,
combining radiation therapy and chemotherapy with surgery significantly improved the survival of patients and it is possible
that the same might be true for pets as well.

Finding a qualified veterinary oncologist
To locate a qualified veterinary oncologist worldwide who can discuss with you appropriate cancer treatment plan for your
pet's cancer condition, please visit the "
Locate a veterinary oncologist" section.  

Does cancer cause pain in pets?
Pain is common in pets with cancer, with some tumors causing more pain than others. In addition to pain caused by the
actual tumors, pets will also experience pain associated with cancer treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy or
chemotherapy. Untreated pain decreases the pet's quality of life, and prolongs recovery from the illness, treatment or
injury. It is, therefore, essential that veterinary teams that are taking care of pets with cancer should also play a vital role in
educating pet owners about recognizing and managing pain in their pets. The best way to manage cancer pain in pets is to
prevent it, a term referred to as preemptive pain management. This strategy anticipates pain ahead of time and
administers pain medication before the pet actually experiences pain, thus ensuring the pet's maximum comfort.

To learn more about which tumors are likely to cause a lot of pain, how to recognize pain in pets with cancer and what
cancer pain management options are available for your pet, please visit the
Cancer Pain Management section.

How important is nutritional support for pets with cancer?
Cancer cachexia (a term referring to progressive severe weight loss) is frequently observed in pets with cancer. Pets with
cancer lose weight partly because of lack of appetite and partly because of cancer-induced altered metabolism. Some of
the causes for decreased appetite are related to the cancer itself (for example, tumors may physically interfere with food
chewing, swallowing, and digestion process) and some may be related to the side effects of cancer treatment (for example,
some chemotherapy drugs cause nausea and vomiting, and radiation therapy can cause mouth inflammation).

Proper nutrition while undergoing cancer treatment is essential to maintain your pet's strength, improve survival times,
quality of life and maximize response to therapy. Adequate nutritional support was shown to decrease the duration of
hospitalization, reduce post-surgery complications and enhance the healing process. Additionally, pets with cancer need to
be fed diets specifically designed to provide maximum benefit and nutritional support for the patient. To learn more, please
visit the
Cancer Nutrition section.

Are there any clinical trials investigating new treatments for rhabdomyosarcoma in cats or dogs?
There are several clinical trials ongoing for dogs with soft tissue sarcomas in pets, which are partially funded by the
institutions. To learn more about these trials, please visit the
Clinical Trials for Soft Tissue Sarcoma in Dogs section.

Additionally, there are several clinical trials available for cats and dogs with any tumor type for which your pet may qualify.
To learn more these trials (which are partially or fully funded by the institutions), please visit the
Dog Clinical Trials (any
tumor type) or Cat Clinical Trials (any tumor type) section.  

To learn more about veterinary clinical trials in general, please visit the
Pet Clinical Trials section.

Sources:   
  • Withrow Stephen J, and David M. Vail. Small Animal Clinical Oncology. St Louis: Saunders Elsevier, 2007.
  • Morrison Wallace B. Cancer in Dogs and Cats: Medical and Surgical Management. Baltimore: Williams&Wilkins, 1998.
© 2007 Pet Cancer Center. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Last updated 4/10/13
PET CANCER CENTER
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Rhabdomyosarcoma
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