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What is Nasal Cancer?

Nasal cancer in dogs is more commonly found in older canines.  It is also more likely to occur in medium to large dogs with long noses (Greyhound, German Shepherd, and Husky).  Researchers are uncertain why it occurs most often to long nose dogs.  A possible answer is that there is a larger area within a longer nasal cavity being exposed to inhaled carcinogens.

Unfortunately, because the growth is inside the nasal cavity (hidden from sight), nasal cancer is not usually diagnosed in the early stages.  If your dog is showing symptoms of nasal cancer he should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Nasal cancer is a malignant growth within the nasal cavity resulting from the division of abnormal cells.  Nasal cancer in dogs is a rare occurrence; it composes 2.5% of canine tumors.  Out of that 2.5% of dogs with nasal tumors, 80 % are diagnosed to be malignant (cancerous).

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Symptoms of Nasal Cancer in Dogs

Symptoms may be different depending on the location and size of the growth.  Symptoms may include:

  • Mucus or pus nasal discharge
  • Nose bleeds
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath
  • Sneezing blood
  • Loss of smell
  • Paws at face
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Displays pain when area is touched
  • Ocular discharge
  • Loose teeth
  • Deformed palate
  • Facial deformity
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Swelling eye protrusion
  • Tumors close to the brain may cause seizures and behavior changes

Types

  • Sarcomas - Grow on the skin and subcutaneous connective tissues (muscle, cartilage, fat and nerves)

  • Fibrosarcoma - Slow growing derived from fibrous connective tissue.
  • Osteosarcoma - Bone cancer is very aggressive and can spread quickly to other parts of the body.

  • Lymphoma - Originates in the lymphocyte cells (white blood cells)
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Causes of Nasal Cancer in Dogs

Cancer is a disease resulting from the division of abnormal cells.  The exact cause of the nasal cancer in dogs may be from:

  • Being exposed to secondhand smoke
  • Pollution from industrial factories
  • Genetics
  • Breathing in carcinogens (paints, chemicals, insecticides)
  • Preservatives and dyes in his diet
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Diagnosis of Nasal Cancer in Dogs

After discussing the recent health history of your pet, the veterinarian will look for clinical signs related to the symptoms you have described; this will include looking at your dog’s teeth and gums in order to rule out a dental issue. The veterinarian may palpate your dog’s face, muzzle and nose area.  If your canine has a nasal or ocular discharge, the doctor may take a mucus sample.  The sample is then examined under a microscope and checked for abnormal cells. The veterinarian may suggest a complete blood test and a chemistry panel test.

He may want to have x-rays taken of the dog’s skull.  If the x-rays determine a mass is present, the doctor may schedule a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) appointment for the patient. The dog will need general anesthesia for the procedure. While under sedation a biopsy may also be taken; a biopsy needle is inserted into the tumor to retrieve tissue cell samples. A pathologist will examine the biopsy for cancer cells.

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Treatment of Nasal Cancer in Dogs

If your companion is diagnosed with cancer the veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary oncologist.  The oncologist will discuss in detail what the best medical options are for your dog.  Usually, surgery to remove the mass is recommended. Lymph node aspiration may be suggested to evaluate if the cancer has spread.  After surgery, radiation and chemotherapy may be recommended.  Radiation therapy is typically administered in 10 to 18 sessions over a 2 to 4 week span.  The specific chemotherapy medications will depend on the type of cancer the patient was diagnosed with.  

There are side effects to radiation and chemotherapy.  Your dog may experience inflammation of the oral cavity, eye dryness, shedding of the skin, and nausea.  If the patient is not eating, a short term feeding tube may need to be inserted. Additionally, radiation therapy may cause later complications such as cataracts, eye uvea and blindness. 

The patient may be prescribed an analgesic along with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Tramadol or opioids, antibiotics and anti-nausea medication.

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Recovery of Nasal Cancer in Dogs

Dogs that are not treated for nasal cancer may only have a few months of life.  Dogs that do receive treatment may extend their lives for several years.  

Patients that undergo surgery will need to wear an E-collar until the sutures are removed.  The surgeon will provide you with post-operative instructions. While the dog is getting radiation therapy and chemotherapy, he may be lethargic and depressed. Dogs may not understand what is going on with their body but they do understand and respond to love and care. It is important that the owner remains strong and supportive for his pet companion. The side effects will subside once the treatment sessions end. Follow-up visit will be necessary to monitor the patient’s progress.

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Nasal Cancer Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Ginny

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English Springer Spaniel

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1 Year

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Runny Nose

My dog Ginny just turned 1. We brought her into the vet because her eye looked red. We’re told it was fine. Went back two weeks later because her gums were bleeding. They went to remove the tooth and two teeth fell out. We were started in an antibiotic. Then saw a lump on her left side of her neck. We are waiting on a biopsy now. Could all this happen so quickly with cancer? We are feeling lost on what to do next.

June 10, 2018

Ginny's Owner

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Without examining Ginny I couldn’t say what the specific cause or severity of the lump is; there are many structures in the neck including lymph nodes, thyroid, salivary glands and other structures which may enlarge. Lymph nodes may enlarge due to infection, inflammation, allergies, cancer among other causes; however I’m sure your Veterinarian would have indicated if the lump was due to an enlarged lymph node. You should wait for the results of the histopathology and then see what your Veterinarian recommends. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 11, 2018

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Teddy Bear

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Westie

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11 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

We have an 11 year old male westie Teddy Bear. 2 to 3 weeks ago he was diagnosed with nasal carcinoma. I have read lot about treatments and the recommended treatment is radiation. I cannot imagine putting him the torture that is described. We heard about chemo that is shot direct in the tumor but have to have a referral. Are there any other treatments being used or in trials that we can check on? Praying for help!!! LaWana Craigmyle

Dec. 5, 2017

Teddy Bear's Owner

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0 Recommendations

There may be some trials or other treatments being offered, but I did a search but couldn’t come up with anything productive as I don’t know of any off my head; plus your location will also have a bearing on what is on offer around you as we receive questions from all over the world. Clinical trial are very particular and patients needs to fall within a strict set of parameters to be considered; your Veterinarian may know more about what is on offer near you. Certain options like cryoablation and the specific type of nasal carcinoma will determine eligibility for trials. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/vmth/local_resources/pdfs/SteffeyCryoablation.pdf

Dec. 5, 2017

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