Prognosis & treatment for nerve sheath tumors in dogs

Nerve Sheath Tumors (NST) in dogs is a serious, but rare, condition that affects the peripheral nervous system which provides mechanical support for the nerves. Typically dogs suffering from this condition will be lame, or perhaps will demonstrate a droopy eyelid or facial paralysis if the tumour is found in the head. Treatment involves amputation of the limb or spinal surgery. If the tumour is found closer to the paw the prognosis is better, though there is a good chance of recurrence in most cases.

What is a Nerve Sheath Tumor?

NSTs are named schwannomas--tumours that can be found in the myelin sheath and attack the peripheral nervous system, including the brain and spine. These tumours can be nerve fibre tumours, malignant nerve fibre tumours, or tumours of blood vessels and soft tissue.

What is the Treatment?

If your dog has been diagnosed with a NST, removal of the tumour is the common method. Removal procedures either require surgery or amputation. Since the tumour attacks the nervous system, many dogs will suffer from lameness in the hind or fore limbs. Amputation of the limb is usually ordered. If the tumour has affected the nerve roots, a laminectomy is often ordered. A laminectomy is a surgery of the spine to relieve pressure. Radiation therapy may also be an option.

What is the Prognosis?

Unfortunately, 72 per cent of all tumour cases are recurring. Dogs with tumours in their limbs have a better prognosis if the tumour is closer to the paw. These tumours tend to stay mainly in the nerve cells, not straying to the lungs or lymph nodes, but the condition is serious. With malignant tumours, 80 per cent of dogs have been found to have a 3-year survival rate, though dogs with nonmalignant tumours have been known to go on to live full and otherwise healthy lives.

If you think your dog is suffering from a NST, contact your veterinarian at once. Your vet will order a complete checkup, including blood work and sometimes an MRI. The condition is serious and your dog will need treatment as soon as possible to stop the spread of the tumour. Most lethal cases are seen in untreated dogs. Get your dog in for a diagnosis as soon as you can.

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About the Author

John Zaphyr is a marketing and sales manager with the Oncology Nursing Society. He has written professionally since1999 and also has editing credits with Friedlander Publishing Group. His articles have appeared in the "Pittsburgh Tribune Review." John earned a master's degree in English education from the University of Pittsburgh.