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What are Tumor of the Nerves?

Peripheral nerve sheath tumors represent 25% of canine nervous system tumors and are most commonly diagnosed in middle age to older dogs. They can form in any location, from any peripheral nerve. Lesions of the peripheral nerves can be benign (schwannoma, neurofibroma), or malignant (usually a locally aggressive tumor that does not metastasize through the lymphatic system).

Tumors of the nerves are abnormal growths that originate from peripheral nerves or along the nerve sheath (myelin surrounding the nerves). In canines, the most common places a tumor of the nerves will be found are at the head and neck (cranial), the paraspinal region of the trunk (next to the spine), and the brachial plexus (a network of nerves found near the neck, shoulder and limb).

Tumor of the Nerves Average Cost

From 2 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$7,500

Symptoms of Tumor of the Nerves in Dogs

Symptoms of the presence of a tumor depend on the location. Below is a list of usual symptoms:

Brachial plexus and cervical nerve roots
  • Pain in front limb
  • Continual muscle weakness or lameness in thoracic limb (forelimb)
  • Horner syndrome (sunken eye known as enophthalmia, droopy upper eyelid which is called ptosis, small pupil also called miosis, and evidence of prominent 3rd eyelid)
  • Absence of ipsilateral cutaneous trunci reflexes (branches of lumbar and thoracic spinal nerves)
  • If the tumor is pressing, or fixed within the spinal cord you may see partial or complete paralysis of limb
Lumbosacral plexus
  • Slow degeneration of muscles in hindlimb
  • Unilateral lameness of the hindlimb
Trigeminal nerve
  • Absence of sensation in face
  • Tumors can be painless or painful
  • Degeneration of the mastication (for chewing) muscles

You pet may also exhibit neurological symptoms that are related to spinal nerve disruption (in relation to mobility, movement and control of limbs).

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Causes of Tumor of the Nerves in Dogs

While the exact cause for tumors in the nerves in dogs has not yet been pinpointed, documentation shows that the following factors have been suspected:

  • Previous exposure to radiation may bring about a tumor
  • A hereditary mutation may be an explanation for a tumor
  • Tumors have been seen to develop around a preceding injury
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Diagnosis of Tumor of the Nerves in Dogs

If you notice mobility issues, lameness, or any other sign that your dog is unwell, prompt attention by a veterinary professional is crucial. Our pets are unable to clearly express pain or illness and often try to continue on a day to day existence even though they are uncomfortable.

Schedule a visit and see the veterinarian promptly if you have concerns about a possible tumor. Documentation states that a tumor can be identified with the following elements in place:

  • It arises from a peripheral nerve
  • There are features in the cells and tissues such as protein binding
  • The lesion develops from a pre-existing benign or malignant mass

The veterinarian will want to start with a complete physical, and at times a mass can be felt. In many instances, though, the tumor is not immediately found. The next step will be a complete blood profile, count, and chemistry.

A nerve biopsy may be suggested, as well as the tests listed below with their function:

  • MRI or CT scan can accurately diagnose the presence of a tumor (the dog will need to be sedated for the procedure)
  • Ultrasound cannot always identify small masses but is very beneficial when locating a larger size tumor because of echogenicity (ultrasound waves bounce off of affected nerves very well and can differentiate from unaffected nerves); also sedation is not usually required, so the procedure is easily repeated when needed
  • Electromyogram can show abnormal muscle activity
  • Myelography can accurately place the location of the mass
  • Tomography can assess the whole spinal cord and vertebral column, and can identify if the spine is compressed
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Treatment of Tumor of the Nerves in Dogs

Surgical removal of the mass is typically the treatment of choice; this decision is based on whether the tumor is accessible and can be removed in it’s entirety. Regrettably, tumors of the nerves often advance beyond surgical margins before they are identified.

Surgery, if attempted, is sometimes accompanied by hemilaminectomy. This is a procedure that removes part of the vertebra in order to relieve pressure on nerve tissue, and can also involve removal of nerve roots at the spinal cord.

Complete amputation of a limb containing a tumor is a form of treatment also, but is done specifically when veterinary surgeons feel that they can totally eradicate the mass. Radiation therapy usually accompanies the above treatment protocols.

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Recovery of Tumor of the Nerves in Dogs

If the tumor can be completely removed, the prognosis is much more positive. Sadly, recurrence is common, especially in cases of nerve sheath tumors in the spinal cord. Tumors in the outer locations of the nerves allow for a better prognosis than a mass in the plexus (within the network of nerves) or root.

Less success is achieved if the tumor is not completely removed, or if the neurological damage remaining is severe, which can lower the quality of life for your dog and for you as a pet owner.

It must be noted that many dogs who have tumors in the nerves face recurrence or are euthanized due to a poor prognosis of recovery. However, a benign tumor of the peripheral type (outside or in the outer locations of the nerves) can have a good chance of eradication, leading to a positive outcome. The veterinarian will be an advocate for your pet, sincerely advising you on the wisest choice for the best outcome. Veterinarian care pushes the health and comfort of your dog first and foremost, which is why it's essential to listen to the advice and medical suggestion of the veterinarian.

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Tumor of the Nerves Average Cost

From 2 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$7,500

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Tumor of the Nerves Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Mixed

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Eleven Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Left Front Leg Swelling And Pain. Gait Issues

My dog is in excruciating pain they refused to euthanize him what can I do. I cant afford ct scan big surgery

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I find it difficult to believe that your veterinarian refused euthanasia if your dog is suffering, without knowing more about the situation. If they had a problem with it, and you feel that your dog is suffering, you will need to visit another veterinarian. It is part of our job to alleviate suffering if we aren't able to provide pain control. There may be a 24 hour or ER clinic in your area that can help you. I hope that you are able to get relief for him.

Aug. 2, 2020

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Gypsy

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Golden Retriever

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5 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Muscle Atrophy

6months ago I noticed gypsy had a possible limp. I questioned it for a couple of weeks then she went for a big run one day and the limp was significant. She went on previcox but it did not help. A week later she had X-rays which showed nothing. A week after that she lost significant muscle tone in her right shoulder/biceps. She went into the specialist and he thought she had torn her bicep. Arthroscope showed nothing. Then did a CT of the neck, nothing. Then a CT of the elbow, nothing. Then a spinal tap and bloods. Nothing. A week later I took her to the vets to get some gabapentin as she was flea biting and pulling at her right leg. Three weeks later she had a review and the specialist wasn’t sure, but mentioned a possible nerve sheath tumour and sent us to a second specialist for another opinion. By this time gypsy was diagnosed with msi and underwent arthroscopy on both shoulders. She had a large tear in the right which wasn’t present a month before. She was put into hobbles and had stem cell therapy. After three months she started building up some muscle in her biceps again, but still significant wastage around her scapula and front of shoulder. She also developed a neck issue which was thought to be brought on by the positioning of the hobbles. Did an ultrasound to check on shoulder/neck and the brachial plexus looked clear. Three weeks ago she hurt her neck doing a silly movement. She went in for mri and today she has been found to have a nerve sheath tumour in her Brachial plexus now affecting multiple nerve roots. They have suggested it’s slow growing. It looks like it wouldn’t be able to be completely excised. She’s having a biopsy on Monday to try help me decide on what to do next. She is still happy, wants to play, barks at the birds. She is currently on 400mg gabapentin twice a day and 100mg previcox once a day. She seems comfortable. She still chews on her leg at times and tries to scratch her shoulder often which I believe is her nerve pain. My question is, what is the time frame if left untreated? From reading these comments it looks like amputation etc gives two years? Does that mean months if left untreated.

Sept. 15, 2018

Gypsy's Owner

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Juliette

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Miniature Pinscher mix

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Intermittent Limp

Our dog has been diagnosed with a nerve sheath tumor; however it is inside the chest so amputation is not an option. What other methods of treatment are available/recommended? Thank you!

July 28, 2018

Juliette's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It really depends on the exact location and which structures are next to the tumour; with nerve sheath tumours it is always best to take a wide margin with surgery but in some cases surgery is just an exercise to reduce the size of the tumour (debulking), that is assuming any surgery is possible based on location. It is difficult to say what the best course of action would be without examining Juliette myself and seeing x-rays or other imaging. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 29, 2018

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Juliette

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Miniature Pinscher

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My dog Juliette was having intermittent limping in her front paw so we took her to get an MRI yesterday. They diagnosed her with a tumor on her nerve near where her paw meets her torso. Because it is inside the rib cage they do not think they can remove it or do a biopsy. Without a biopsy are there any other ways to tell if it is benign or malignant?

July 18, 2018

Juliette's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

There is no way to tell if a tumor is benign or malignant without a biopsy, unfortunately. Your veterinarian may be able to assess how quickly the tumor is changing or causing problems to give you an idea as to what to expect.

July 18, 2018

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Belle

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Labrador Mix

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11 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Limping, Loss Control Of Her Paw

Hello I'm looking for some help. My 11. year old Labrador mix has been diagnosed with a nerve sheath tumor on her right front leg. The tumor is found on the spinal nerve supplying the right triceps. The affected muscle has atrophy. The lesion does not extend to the vertebral canal. I am looking for advise on what are our options. The vet first suggested arthroscopic surgery suggesting there was a problem in her ligaments. He did that and confirmed 2 of her ligaments were torn and there was chronic inflamation.($3000) After 2 months of strict rest wearing an orthesis, no improvement and lost all her muscle. So we did an mri ($2000) which confirmed the tumor. Now they are saying our options are amputation or euthanasia since the vet says its painful. We are not rich people, we love our dog. I am trying to switch her diet to an alkaline one and spoil her as much as I can. What is the recommendation?

July 12, 2018

Belle's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

Without examining Belle and knowing the precise location I cannot recommend any specific treatment; however normally options include surgical removal with wide margins (not always practical), surgical debulking (to reduce the size) or amputation to remove tumour and all surrounding tissue. This is a discussion to have with your Veterinarian or Specialist so that they can thoroughly explain the options based on Belle’s specific circumstance. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 12, 2018

Thanks for your answer. What i would like to understand is if we amputate with a reasonable margin if there is still risk of reoccurrence.

July 12, 2018

Belle's Owner

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digger

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Labrador Retriever

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13 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lameness, Breathless, Leaking Bowel

13 yr old lab was diagnosed with trigeminal sheath nerve tumour which has been present for over 2 yrs, he is on pain meds and has limited mobility,very lame on walking, gets quite breathless he appears to be leaking a yellow liquid from bottom, and has been sick a few times in the last few days, still eats,drinks and has normal looking bowel movements, how long is it likely to be before euthanasing?

Tumor of the Nerves Average Cost

From 2 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$7,500

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