Throat Tumors in Dogs

young boxer image by Edsweb from

Throat tumours in dogs frequently are malignant. Often, due to the location, throat tumours are not noticed until they have grown quite large and, in many cases, spread to other organs. Sometimes symptoms that are present are so minor that they go unnoticed.

Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are imperative to increase the chances of a successful outcome.


Thyroid tumours appear on the thyroid glands, which are on the throat, on either side of the windpipe. It is thought that some breeds, such as boxer, beagle and golden retriever, are more likely to develop thyroid tumours. The average age during which these tumours appear is nine years. According to Veterinary Partner, thyroid tumours are malignant in 87 per cent of cases. Laryngeal tumours occur in the part of the throat containing the vocal cords. The different types of tumours of the larynx include rhabdomyoma, extramedullary, chondrosarcoma, plasmacytoma, and osteosarcoma. Most are usually malignant with the exception of rhabdomyoma, which can grow quite large but is benign.


There may be no early symptoms in throat tumours. As the tumours increase in size you may notice your dog is coughing, having difficulty swallowing or is experiencing a loss of appetite. Sometimes there is blood in the dog's saliva and a foul breath odour is present. A change in your dog's bark may be noticed.


Throat tumours of all kinds often are first noticed during routine veterinary examinations. Tumours of the larynx can be biopsied during examination due to their accessibility. Other tumour locations are not as easy to reach. Following initial detection, it is necessary to determine extent of local invasion, malignancy and metastasis to distant areas. Blood profile assessments, ultrasound, scopes, and magnetic resonance imaging are employed, either singularly or in combination, to further access the extent of the tumour's reach.


Treatments vary according to the type, invasiveness and spread of the tumour. Tumours that are freely movable with no detectable spread are usually removed surgically. Surgery often is not effective in completely removing tumours that are invasive. In this case, surgery is usually followed by radiation therapy.

Complications and Outcome

Complications can occur in throat tumours due to the disease as well as the treatments. Pain often is present from the tumour itself. Surgery and the burning effects of radiation cause additional pain. Coughing, hoarseness and difficulty swallowing often first present as symptoms but continue as the effects of radiation therapy. Pain and difficulty swallowing can dull the dog's desire and ability to eat, resulting in loss of weight and nutritional deficit at a time when both are most important. Spread to other organs causes additional difficulties depending upon which organs are involved. Due to the metastatic nature of many throat tumours, death is often the eventual outcome.