Nasal tumours occur predominantly in senior dogs of breeds that have moderate to longer noses, according Dr. Margaret McEntee, a veterinary radiation oncologist at Cornell University in her paper "Nasal Neoplasia in the Dog and Cat." Airedales, collies, shelties, Scottish terriers, basset hounds, German shorthair pointers and old English Sheepdogs contract the disease most often, with golden retrievers and Labradors also having a higher risk of illness. Owners of these particular breeds need to learn what the symptoms are of nasal tumours to initiate prompt veterinary care.
Veterinarians consider chronic discharge a major sign that your dog may have a nasal tumour. Typically beginning in one nostril, the discharge will eventually spread to both and one nostril is usually worse than the other. The liquid is seen as serous (clear), mucoid (white), mucopurulent (green and pussy) or hemorrhagic (bloody).
Decreased Air Flow
With the increase in mucus, your dog may begin sneezing in an attempt to get rid of the nasal discharge. Depending on the size and location of the tumours, air flow in and out of your dog's nose may decrease and you might hear what your vet calls stridor---a shrill, harsh sound heard during inspiration.
The vets at Veterinary Practice News magazine, a subsidiary of the Animal Network, state that late-stage signs of nasal cancer "may include a facial deformity along the dorsal (top) aspect of the maxillary bones (upper jaw) or over the paranasal and frontal sinuses (the front of the head)." The hard palate in your dog's mouth may soften because the growing tumours force facial bones to lose minerals and his teeth become loose. If the tumour extends into the eye orbit, your dog's eye can begin to protrude and you will see excessive tearing.
As the tumour grows, it may extend into the sinus cavity and up into the cranial vault causing central nervous system disorders. Your dog may show signs of disorientation, seizures, blindness, ataxia (inability to walk straight), unconsciousness and finally, coma.
Loss of Smell
Some dogs lose their sense of smell as the disease progresses and cranial and nasal nerves are destroyed. Once the ability to smell their food is gone, they can become anorexic and lose weight rapidly.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A veterinary diagnosis of nasal cancer relies on the vet's interpretation of your dog's history, blood work and biochemistry profile, a CAT scan of the nasal cavity, and a fine needle aspirate and biopsy of the tumour.
While some benign tumours can be surgically removed without consequence to the dog, veterinarians diagnose the majority of nasal tumours as malignant and the prognosis for affected dogs is poor. According to Vet Surgery Central, dogs undergoing surgery alone without further treatment live an average of less than six months. With surgery and added radiation treatment, some dogs have lived almost two full years after diagnosis.
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- Common Diseases of Companion Animals; Alleice Summers, DVM; 2002
- Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians; D. M. McCurning, DVM, J. M. Bassert, DVM; 2002
- Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference, 2001: Nasal Neoplasia in the Dog and Cat
- Veterinary Practice News: Nasal Cancers Rare But Deadly
- Vet Surgery Central, Inc.: Nasal Cavity Tumors